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Soil Improvement Addition of organic matter, in the form of garden compost, animal manure or peat will improve all soils. Incorporated into the soil during winter digging it will enhance drainage, water holding, soil structure and nutrient retention. Regular application is needed to maintain the benefits, especially in light sandy soils. Addition of Lime Lime regulates the level of acidity in the soil. The degree of acidity / alkalinity, strongly affects the availability of nutrients and the population of beneficial soil organisms. Most vegetables prefer a soil pH around 6∙5. Lime also assists formation of a crumb structure, on heavy soils, by the process of flocculation. Under the influence of lime, tiny soil particles stick together to form larger groups (flocculate), increasing the air spaces and aiding drainage. Soil loses lime at a steady rate and requires regular replacement. The main cause of loss is washing out by rain (leaching) and will be greater in wetter districts and on sandy soil. Lime should not be added to freshly manured ground as it accelerates the decomposition of organic matter. Nor should it be applied at the same time as other chemical fertilisers, to avoid any chemical interaction.

Soil Improvement

What is pH? pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity (alkalinity) of a medium. A base is the opposite of an acid. An alkali is a liquid base. The scale runs from 1-14. 1-6 indicate degree of acidity. The lower the number the more acidic. 7 indicates Neutral (neither acid nor base) 8-14 indicates alkalinity. The higher the number: the greater the Alkalinity. A range of colours are associated with the numbers, as can be seen from the chart below.

A solution, called Universal indicator, when added to a soil sample, changes colour according to the pH of the material. The colour is then compared to the chart to determine the pH. A simple test kit, available from garden centres, will allow you to test your own soil.

Soil Improvement

Making Garden Compost Location and features of a Compost Heap  preferably shaded from sun  easily accessible - if using kitchen waste it may need siting close to the house  Access for wheelbarrow when emptying / filling  Within a supporting framework or container which allows easy filling and emptying  Large enough to hold all available material  Sheltered from rain Suitable materials for inclusion;       

Grass clippings Kitchen waste Soft prunings Crop residue Leaves Annual weeds (if not producing seeds) Woody material, leathery leaves etc should be chopped prior to composting

Ideally material should be applied in quantity. Under these conditions rapid growth in the bacterial population causes a large rise in temperature which increases efficiency of decomposition, kills harmful organisms and weed seeds. If material is only applied in small amounts, decomposition will be slower. It can be assisted by the addition of garden soil or proprietary accelerators, which are available from garden suppliers.

Soil Improvement

Soil improvement  
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