Soil Amendments: Why are they important?
Soil amendments are often used in gardening and agriculture to improve the quality of the soil you will be planting. In Florida, our soils tend to be sandy and slightly alkaline (or high pH). Sandy soils tend to drain water extremely quickly and don’t hold water or nutrients very well. Our soil is on the alkaline side because we live on top of an aquifer composed of lime stone. Lime stone is composed largely of calcium. This calcium leaches into the soil and increases the pH, or makes it more alkaline. In contrast, most plants like slightly acidic soil, with a pH ranging from a 5.5 to a 6.5. Slightly acidic soil makes it easier for plants to absorb nutrients from the soil around them.
Florida soil can be improved by adding compost. Good compost is one with a high amount of decomposed organic material. This decomposed organic matter will improve water retention, thus improving moisture holding capacity and provide small levels of nutrient levels which slow down the leaching rate of the water and nutrients. For more information about making your own compost, visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep32. Some other methods of improving soil quality include: vermicompost (http://bit.ly/2qvPmnC), animal manures, and cover crops. Vermicomposting entails using the worm castings of red wiggler or African night crawler worms, to improve soil structure and nutrient content in soil. Through this process, you can also compost your kitchen scraps. Animal manures are high in nitrogen and will help to build up humus (dark organic matter) in your soil. Lastly, cover crops are “living mulch” of “green manure.” Cover crops are utilized to keep weeds under control in a field during non-cropping cycles, prevent erosion, and add nutrients to the soil when they are tilled under at the end of the season. For more information on cover crops, visit http://bit.ly/2pTSrfU. If you are interested in using animal manures, please visit the following link to learn more about important food safety factors. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_manure_as_fertilizer