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How to Add Nutrients to Soil

Soil is an amazingly complex part of ecosystems. It is a habitat for plants, microorganisms, fungi, insects, and earthworms. It is the location of nitrogen-fixing microorganisms. Soil also helps filter water. Plants need 17 essential nutrients to grow, which they obtain via root absorption from the soil. If you want to have healthy plants that produce a high crop yield, then we have to talk about how to add nutrients to the soil.

There are a variety of organic soil amendments that can provide your soil with important macro- and micronutrients. Plants’ growth increases when the soil is healthy and the nutrients are plentiful.

But how can you increase the nutrients and improve the health of the soil? Head on over to your compost pile or keep reading below and let’s find out.

The Importance of Soil Nutrients

Soil is an essential and dynamic part of ecosystems and soil nutrients are an important resource for plant growth. Plant roots not only anchor the plant into the soil; but also are responsible for the uptake of nutrients and water.

These nutrients enter the roots via different types of cell transport and are used by plants during growth and development.

It is common for soils to be deficient in many nutrients, especially nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important macronutrient that plants need in large amounts. Plants cannot use atmospheric nitrogen, but various microorganisms and fungi in the soil help to fix nitrogen into a form that plants can use.

The soil can also provide insulation to plants in varying types of climates.

These seedlings are grown by someone that figured out how to add nutrients to their soil

What is the Fastest Way to Add Nutrients to Soil?

There are many organic options, listed below, to increase the nutrients in your soil and the available nutrients for plants. Another option is to use products such as Green House Feeding’s Bio Line or Silution from Bio Nova.

Green House Feeding has three nutrient additives: BioGrow, BioBloom, and BioEnhancer. These all-in-one products can solve the problem of enriching a great deal of soil and acreage with a highly concentrated proprietary organic mix. They are also slow-release nutrients that provide your crops with nutrients over 8 weeks.

The Bio Line from Green House Feeding only needs to be added two or three times a growth cycle. There is a Green House Feeding Bio Line nutrient calculator resource available to assist you in determining how much you need.

Before choosing the type of nutrients or natural fertilizers you will use, let’s figure out what kind of soil you’re working with.

Types of Soil

Having insight into the type of soil in your garden will also help you prepare the soil before planting. Sandy soil is a lighter type of soil. These soils usually experience higher amounts of water loss. This soil is also susceptible to erosion from wind which is not good for the anchoring of plant roots.

Adding compost to sandy soil is one way to increase nutrient and water retention.

In contrast, clay soil is a heavier type of soil. This type of soil holds a lot of water which makes it dense. If the soil is too dense, there is less pore space. This type of soil needs to be aerated frequently, which can be done by both breaking apart the soil and adding organic amendments to the soil.

To improve clay soil, compost can also be added. Tilling can also help break up the tight, denseness of the soil particles.

The roots of the dandelion and evergreen plants in this picture are anchored in healthy, nutrient rich soil.
Figure 1: Dandelion and Evergreen Roots Anchored in Healthy Soil

Rich soil is usually a combination of sandy and clay soil. This soil is beneficial for plants. Water, air, and nutrients can easily move around and be absorbed by plant roots.

How do You Enrich Poor Soil?

We have discussed the importance of soil in an ecosystem. Boosting nutrient availability in the soil is essential for plant growth and higher crop yield. But how do you enrich poor soil?

Preparing your soil during the off-season is essential so that it contains the right mix of soil types; has proper aeration; water holding capability; and enough essential nutrients for your crops. You can take some steps to ensure that your soil is ready to support your crops during the growing season.

The first step is to test your soil. You can send a soil sample out to a lab for an in-depth analysis. A soil test will provide nutrient levels, pH levels, and soil quality information. These results will guide you to determine what additives your soil needs to have success growing plants. There are also self-test kits you can use, but a lab test is the best option.

Another step is to plant cover crops during the off-season which can help prepare your soil or maintain soil conditions. Cover crops help enrich the soil, add nutrients, and increase microbial life. This insures nutrient and water recycling is occurring all the time. Some examples of cover crops that can be planted are clovers, radishes, and rye.

This image shows a tractor disking a field. Disking is a type of tilling that helps rotate the nutrients in the soil by breaking apart large clumps. It also helps to increase the aeration of the soil.
Figure 2: Tractor Tilling a Field

Tilling moist soil helps turn over the organic matter and nutrients that are already present. Tilling the soil also helps loosen up the soil medium and allows for deeply growing plant roots.

Crop rotation also helps increase nutrient availability in soil and reduce the chances of pathogen infestation for your crops. Planting legumes can add nutrients get added back into the soil.

Legumes have a mutualistic relationship with Rhizobia fungi, and these organisms form pods on the roots of legumes. Rhizobia fix nitrogen into a form that plants can use, thus adding nutrients back into the soil.

You can also use the following 6 options for organic fertilizer to help boost nutrients in the soil.

How do You Add Nutrients to Soil Without Fertilizer?

Plant health is important, and to have lush, green plants, with high crop yields we need good quality, healthy soil. The addition of nutrients to your soil is simple. There are a variety of natural additives that you can add to improve soil health. There are also organic nutrient amendments that contain combinations of natural fertilizers.

The image displays a compost pile from a compost bin. Compost is an organic fertilizer that can be used to add nutrients to soil.
Figure 3: Compost from a Compost Bin

Bone Meal

A type of organic soil fertilizer that comes from the ground-up bones of animals. It is a great source of phosphorus for plants. You can add bone meal to the soil before you plant for the season. You can also use it when plants are already growing by adding it to the soil (make sure it gets into the soil, not just on the surface).

Fish Emulsion

A good source of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. This additive also has other micronutrients that plants need such as magnesium, sulfur, and calcium (and more!). It is diluted in water and is applied in liquid form to the crops. Since there is quick absorption by the plant, it only needs to be added in small amounts.

Blood Meal

This additive is made from dried animal blood (usually from cows) and is a source of nitrogen for plants. It can be added to the soil or incorporated into compost. Microbes in the soil consume this organic fertilizer and then release nitrogen in a form that plants can use.

Compost

A great soil additive because the organic material releases nutrients into the soil as it breaks down. You can make compost and mix it into the soil before planting. You can also add compost on top if you have already planted. Compost helps to enrich the soil long-term. It also helps retain moisture in the soil.

Wood Chips

A natural option is to add nutrients to your soil that are scattered on the soil surface. Wood releases nutrients into the soil as it breaks down. You want to monitor the pH of your soil if you are using these as a natural fertilizer because too much can lower the soil pH and make it too acidic for some plants.

Worm Castings

Help improve the soil by adding castings from earthworms. As earthworms work their way through the soil, eating as they go, their body pushes out their waste. This waste is high in many nutrients that plants require, especially nitrogen. You can add the castings into the soil before planting, or to the surface of the soil after plants are already in the ground.

Summary

Having nutrient-dense soil is essential to producing healthy plants and high crop yields. The soil is not only home to plants, but also the many microorganisms that are key players in assisting plant growth. Some microorganisms fix nitrogen in the soil into a form that plants can use.

Before adding nutrients to the soil, be sure to send a soil sample out to the lab for analysis. Once you are aware of the soil conditions you can choose which types of natural fertilizers or nutrient fertilizers you want to add.

Planting cover crops during the off-season and adding amendments like compost are great ways to get your soil ready for plants. There are a variety of other natural options to boost nutrient density in soil including premixed nutrient additives.

Published
Categorized as Nutrients

By Talissa Nahass

Talissa is a secondary science educator who loves teaching biology and environmental science. She has her B.S. in Biology/ Secondary Education and her M.A. in Educational Leadership. In her spare time, she enjoys doing science research and writing. She has a passion for hiking, running, and being outdoors. Every spring she grows various fruits and vegetables in her garden.

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