Soil Amendments
Q.

Soil help please

Zone York | Leanneol79 added on July 10, 2018 | Answered

I’ve been given an allotment that my father in law has. It’s not been used for years and the soil isn’t great. I plan on spending the rest of the year improving the soil so it’s ready for crops next year. Is it ok to just add manure to the soil and keep digging it over each week? I know that fresh manure can burn plant roots but I won’t be growing anything till next year. Any other ways I can improve the soil?

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MichiganDot
Answered on July 10, 2018

If you have $10 - $25 dollars to spare, start with a soil test. The results are priceless. They will tell you where your soil is deficient and the specifics on how to correct it. Does the pH need adjusting - something that should be done this fall. Testing is well worth the money, IMO. Your question today is asking for a guess on what you need to do. Well, everyone agrees that adding manure and peat moss help garden soil but more is not better. If the plot is weedy, this is a big issue too. Not only are weeds unsightly, they compete for soil moisture and nutrients. (Allowing weeds to go to seed is also inconsiderate of plot neighbors.) There will be dormant weed seeds in the soil: this is inevitable. Regular hoeing this summer to catch them while young will help prevent those seeds from germinating in your crops next year. Some weeds are difficult to eradicate. This year allows you to use glyphosate (RoundUp) since it is not active in the soil and won't affect soil microbes and roots. Deep tilling and double digging have gone by the wayside. Studies are showing that this long-honored practice actually destroys soil structure. Make sure you are allowed to use fresh manure as the smell might be offensive to other growers. It may also contain weed seeds from whatever the animal was browsing. This summer, consider whether you want to make raised beds, drip irrigation and what garden design you will follow. Square foot gardening is again very popular but there are other approaches. How much sunlight does the plot get? Do neighboring plots shade some areas; these areas will be good for growing lettuces, basil, and cilantro. Are you going to stake tomatoes, trellis cukes and squash, grow pole beans? You can make your own trellises and save a lot of money. Check your state extension service website for ideas specific to your region. They will know more about your soils than I and have all sorts of information on growing in your state. It is nice to have all this time to get ready and plan specific crops. Enjoy!!

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