Knowing your garden soil is important, but fortunately, you don’t need to know what type of soil you have to make the most common improvements, because all types of soil will benefit from the addition of well-rotted organic matter. Unless you have a very peaty soil, which is already rich in organic matter, it is worth adding as much manure and garden compost as you can. All gardeners use to make their own compost because this is the best soil-improving material that you can have for your garden soil, and is free.
Adding organic matter to your soil can be done by digging it into the soil or applied as mulch and left for worms to take it down into the soil. In light, sandy soils, organic matter acts like a sponge, helping them to retain moisture. In clay soils, the organic matter opens up the structure and improves drainage. Organic matter will also improve the fertility of poor soils because it releases nutrients into the soil. It is important that the organic matter is well-rotted before you add it into the soil. Otherwise it will continue to break down in the soil using up valuable nitrogen in the process.
Another way to add organic material into the soil is by growing green manures. These are nutritious, quick-growing crops that are sown on vacant ground and then dug in to rot down in the soil. Here is a short list of plants that you can plant as green manures: broad beans, lupins, red clover, winter tare – they are all fixing nitrogen into the soil, Italian ryegrass, mustard, phacelia – are all quick growing.