Organic Soil: Diy Guide

how to make organic soil st the house

Making your own organic soil at home is a rewarding investment that will only strengthen your understanding of gardening and how plants grow and thrive. With quality soil, you may not even need to feed or fertilise your plants, as all the necessary nutrients will be right there in the soil.

There are many recipes for organic soil, but most include a combination of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. You can also add other organic materials such as coffee grounds, banana peels, eggshells, shredded leaves, grass clippings, wood ashes, and sawdust to feed earthworms, which in turn aerate and fertilise the soil.

If you're looking to create organic soil for a vegetable garden, it's important to determine the soil pH before adding any amendments. Most vegetables grow best in soil with a slightly acidic pH between 6.0 and 7.0. You can add crushed limestone to make acidic soil more alkaline, and peat moss to make alkaline soil more acidic.

Characteristics Values
Ingredients Peat moss, compost, coarse vermiculite, perlite, leaf mold, rotted sawdust, coconut husk fibres, cow manure, sand, gypsum, lava rock, pumice, rice hulls, blood meal, bone meal, guano, soy, cotton, corn, kelp meal, basalt, gypsum, oyster shell flour, wood ash, chicken manure, rock dust, worm castings, bat guano, crustacean meal, coir, alfalfa meal, bone meal, earthworm castings, kelp meal, azomite, perlite, peat moss, vermicompost
Soil type Loam, sand, clay, silt
Soil health Good soil tilth, sufficient depth, proper levels of nutrients, good drainage, large populations of beneficial organisms
Soil texture Gritty, powdery, harsh when dry and sticky when wet
Soil colour Dark

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Combine 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost

Making your own organic soil is a rewarding process that can save you money in the long run. While it may be more expensive to source the individual components in small quantities, creating your own soil becomes more cost-effective for larger projects, such as filling a raised bed or container garden.

One popular recipe for organic soil, known as Mel's Mix, combines equal parts (by volume) of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost. Here's a detailed guide on how to create this mix:

Ingredients:

  • Peat Moss: Peat moss helps to lighten the soil, improving its water retention and promoting healthy root growth. However, it tends to be acidic, so you may need to adjust the pH based on your plants' needs. Sourcing peat moss can be environmentally detrimental, so consider using coco coir as a more sustainable alternative.
  • Vermiculite: Vermiculite is a mineral that improves aeration and drainage in the soil. It retains more moisture than perlite, making it ideal for plants that require consistently moist soil. However, it can be expensive and environmentally detrimental to source, so some gardeners prefer using perlite instead.
  • Compost: Compost provides essential nutrients and organic matter for plant growth. Aim for compost from a variety of sources (e.g., manure, yard waste, food scraps) to create "blended compost," which is richer in nutrients. If you're buying compost, look for products with diverse ingredients and avoid single-ingredient options.

Mixing Instructions:

  • Calculate the required amount of each ingredient based on the volume of soil you need. For Mel's Mix, you'll need equal parts of each component.
  • Combine the ingredients in a large container, such as a wheelbarrow or a tarp.
  • Mix the ingredients thoroughly. You can use a rake or shovel, or even your hands if you're wearing gloves.
  • Water the mixture. This step is crucial, especially if you're using peat moss, as it needs to be moist to function effectively.
  • Allow the soil to settle for a few days to a week. The mixture will settle and compact slightly, so you may need to add more to reach your desired volume.
  • Check the pH. The mix may be slightly acidic due to the peat moss, so you might need to adjust the pH based on the preferences of your plants. You can correct acidity by adding garden lime (either dolomitic lime or calcitic lime).
  • Use the soil in your garden or containers. Mel's Mix is suitable for filling raised beds, containers, and even starting seeds directly.

Remember, this is just one example of an organic soil mix. There are many variations and additional ingredients you can experiment with, such as sand, worm castings, and fertiliser. The key to successful soil creation is understanding the characteristics of each ingredient and how they contribute to a healthy growing environment for your plants.

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Use compost from a friend's backyard, worm castings, forest topsoil and premium compost

Making your own organic soil is a great way to save money and ensure the health of your plants. Here are the steps to make organic soil using compost from a friend's backyard, worm castings, forest topsoil, and premium compost:

Ingredients:

  • Compost from a friend's backyard
  • Worm castings (vermicomposting)
  • Forest topsoil
  • Premium compost

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

Collect your ingredients, ensuring you have a diverse range of materials. The more diverse your ingredients are, the more likely your plants will thrive.

Step 2: Prepare the Worm Castings

Worm castings are an excellent natural fertilizer for your soil. If you have a worm bin, check if the worms have digested the kitchen scraps and produced dark, fluffy humus with an earthy smell. If you don't have enough humus, give the worms more time to break down the scraps. You can speed up the process by keeping the bin warm.

Once you have enough worm castings, harvest them by removing unwanted debris and filtering out any undigested scraps. The fresher the worm castings, the better, as they contain valuable microbes. However, if you can't use them right away, you can always save them for later.

Step 3: Mix the Ingredients

Mix your ingredients in a large container, such as a bucket or wheelbarrow. Use a tarp and mix them with a rake or shovel, ensuring everything is well combined. You can also add other organic ingredients like leaf mold, rotted sawdust, or coir fiber for additional diversity.

Step 4: Prepare Your Garden Bed

Before adding the soil to your garden bed, water it generously. This will help eliminate dust and weigh the soil down. Let the soil settle for about two weeks before planting.

Step 5: Add the Soil to Your Garden Bed

Now it's time to add your organic soil to the garden bed. Ensure you have calculated the amount of soil needed for your bed. A soil calculator can help you determine the required volume. Spread the soil evenly and gently pat it down.

Step 6: Plant Your Seeds or Seedlings

With your organic soil in place, you can now plant your seeds or seedlings. Worm castings are excellent for nourishing young plants, so consider adding a small amount directly to the planting hole and mixing it with the surrounding soil.

Step 7: Ongoing Maintenance

Throughout the growing season, continue to care for your plants by applying compost as a side dressing and using worm tea as a natural fertilizer. Worm tea is made by brewing worm castings, sugar, and water, and it provides a boost of nutrients for your plants.

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Pasteurise compost at 160-180°F to kill fungi and bacteria

Pasteurising compost is an important step in preparing a growing medium for mushrooms. It is also useful for preparing organic garden soil, especially when using compost made from garden waste. Pasteurisation kills off harmful organisms that may compete with the mushrooms for nutrients or attack them. It also kills persistent insects and weed seeds.

When preparing compost for mushrooms, the pasteurisation process should be carried out in two phases. Phase I involves preparing a nutrient-rich substrate that the mushrooms can consume. Phase II has two objectives: pasteurising the compost to reduce or eliminate unwanted microbes, insects, and bacteria; and completing the composting process to ensure that any remaining ammonia is converted into food that the mushrooms can use.

To pasteurise compost, it must be heated to a certain temperature range for a specified duration. The temperature and duration depend on the chosen pasteurisation method. For example, the hot water pasteurisation method involves submerging the compost in hot water between 149 and 167°F (65 and 75°C) for one to two hours. In contrast, the steam pasteurisation method requires specialised equipment to release steam into containers or insulated rooms containing layers of pre-moistened compost. This method is more expensive and less practical for home growers.

Another method of pasteurisation is to use an oven. First, preheat the oven to 390 to 400°F (200 to 210°C). Next, add water to the compost until it is slightly above field capacity to compensate for any water loss through evaporation. Place the hydrated compost into an aluminium foil baking tray, cover it tightly with foil, and place it in the oven. Leave the compost to pasteurise for 60 minutes, then check the temperature in the middle of the compost using a thermometer. The target temperature is 160 to 180°F (71 to 82°C). If the target temperature is reached, turn off the oven and leave the compost to cool down slowly. If not, leave the oven on for another 30 minutes.

When pasteurising compost, it is important not to exceed a temperature of 190°F, as this can form compounds that hinder plant growth. Additionally, if the temperature is too high, beneficial bacteria may be killed.

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Add nutrients like blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, greensand and rock-based minerals

Nutrient-rich soil is the key to healthy plants. Blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, greensand, and rock-based minerals are excellent sources of nutrients for your plants.

Blood meal is a pure source of nitrogen, with an NPK ratio of 13-0-0. It is derived from cow's blood and provides an immediate boost of nitrogen to your plants. Apply 1/4 cup of blood meal to brassica plants at planting time, and 1 cup per 5 feet of alliums in the spring.

Bone meal is high in phosphorus and calcium and is excellent for fruit and flowering plants. It has a varying NPK ratio but typically contains little to no nitrogen. Bone meal breaks down slowly, providing a steady source of phosphorus for your plants.

Kelp meal is an excellent source of potassium and trace minerals. It also contains naturally occurring growth hormones. Kelp meal is an excellent addition to your soil if you are looking to boost the overall health and vigour of your plants.

Greensand is an iron potassium silicate often collected from marine sediments. It has an NPK ratio of 0-0-3 and is an excellent source of potassium. Greensand helps break down clay soils and improves moisture retention.

Rock-based minerals, such as rock phosphate and glacial rock dust, are excellent sources of calcium, iron, and other trace minerals. Rock phosphate is essential for flower and fruit development, while glacial rock dust provides food for beneficial microbes in the soil.

When adding these nutrients to your soil, it is important to consider the specific needs of your plants. For example, if you are growing fruiting crops like tomatoes and peppers, you will want to encourage bushy vegetative growth with nitrogen-rich blood meal. On the other hand, if you are growing plants that require a lot of phosphorus, such as basil, you may want to opt for bone meal or soft-rock phosphate.

Always follow the recommended application rates on the product labels, and remember that it is better to start with smaller amounts and gradually increase as needed.

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Add sand to improve drainage

Adding sand to your soil can be an effective way to improve drainage, but it is important to exercise caution. Sand is one of the cheapest things you can add to your garden soil to help break up the soil. The small particle size of the sand will get in between soil clods and break them up, increase drainage, and help to aerate the soil for good root development. However, if you have clay-like soil, adding sand can actually make conditions worse. The small particles of sand can bind up with the clay and form a mixture that is almost like concrete, which will repel even more water and may kill your grass.

If you want to improve the drainage of clay soil, it is far more practical to use organic matter to help break it up. Compost is your best bet, but organic matter can also come from other sources such as wood mulch, composted manure, or shredded leaves.

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Frequently asked questions

Organic soil is soil that is "teeming with life". A shot glass filled with a proper organic soil will contain more individual living organisms than humans who inhabit the planet.

Making your own organic soil is cost-effective, accessible, and easy. It also teaches you a lot about soil science and how the components of soil will affect the outcome of your plants' growth.

The basic building blocks for plants are based around N-P-K—these stand for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K).

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