Your soil’s condition largely determines the quality of your lawn. Soil contains all kinds of nutrients that help plants grow, and if your soil does not have these essential nutrients, then your plants will have trouble taking root and flourishing.
Some types of soil are naturally more nutritious than others. For example, soil near a fertile riverbank might have more natural nutrients than hard soil full of clay and sand. If you notice that your plants are having trouble growing in your soil, then you might have to apply some soil conditioner to improve your soil quality.
Soil conditioner contains important minerals such as potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus, all things that plants need to grow properly. Soil conditioner can help you reset your soil’s nutritional content and pH levels so your plants can flourish happily and healthily, even in non-optimal soil.
What Is Soil Conditioner Used For?
The most common use of soil conditioner is to improve soil quality and structure. Over time, soil can become compacted and full of bad things like sodium and other basic and acidic components that can kill plants and prevent them from taking root. Soil conditioner can be used to improve the nutritional quality of soil and improve the soil’s physical condition by adding more moisture, loft, and texture.
In general, good soil is composed of 50% organic or inorganic material, 25% air space, and 25% water space. Hard, compacted soils with a lot of clay or sand lack a lot of the space needed for water and air. Good soil also has beneficial microbes that can help soil grow. If soil does not have enough air and water, these microorganisms cannot survive and cannot help plants grow.
Soil conditioner thus contains several organic and inorganic components. Some of the more common ones include:
- Animal manure
- Peat moss
- Cover crop residue
The kind of soil conditioner you need depends on the particular kind of soil that you have.
Is Soil Conditioner the Same as Compost?
Not exactly. Compost is a type of soil conditioner, but it is not synonymous. You can think of the relationship between the two as the relationship between squares and rectangles. All compost is reliable conditioner, but not all soil conditioner is compost.
Compost is composed of decayed plant and animal material and is often added to soil to improve its texture. For example, compost will help sandy or rocky soil form aggregates and give it a more spongy texture, which is better for plant roots.
That being said, compost is generally considered one of the best all-purpose soil conditioners and usually is the main component of most soil conditioners. You can greatly improve your soil texture by adding a layer of compost in addition to adding supplements for nutrients and chemicals to help your plants grow.
How Do You Apply Soil Conditioner?
Before applying anything, you should test your soil to know what kind of additives it needs. You can buy a simple soil testing kit from your local home and garden store.
Once you figure out what kind of conditioner to use, you need to till your soil using a rake or a rototiller. You want to overturn the first 4-5 inches of your soil. Next, spread the soil conditioner across your yard and garden until it makes a layer that is roughly 3 inches thick. Then, take the rake and work the conditioner into the soil until it is evenly mixed.
How Much Soil Conditioner Do You Need?
In general, you need enough conditioner to cover your yard in a layer about 3-4 inches thick. The kind of soil conditioner you buy should have instructions covering how much will cover a yard of a given sq. footage. Do not feel afraid to apply soil conditioner generously; you can add more than 3 inches of conditioner if you think your yard needs more.
You can also get a rough idea by figuring out what nutrients your soil needs and then calculating the necessary amount of conditioner. Again, you can buy a simple soil testing kit from your local home and garden store to get a more accurate reading.
The Best Soil Conditioners
Good soil conditioners will contain a mixture of organic and inorganic masses, nutrients, and chemicals. The essential minerals for plant growth are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, so no matter which kind of conditioner you get, make sure it has these minerals. Here are some of the more popular soil conditioners out there.
- Simple Grow Solutions
- Humic Fulvic Acid
- Jone’s Organics Soil Amendment
- Espoma PR8 Organic Perlite
- Hoffman 15503 Sphagnum Peat Moss