Soils that are compacted and hard pan need to be amended if they are to support the growth of most plants, and this is where soil conditioners come in.
Soil conditioners are applied on poor soil to improve its structure and make them ideal for plants to grow. Different soil challenges can be facilitated by simply applying organic or inorganic soil conditioners.
The good news is that many materials around us can serve as soil conditioners. Come along with us, and we will give you a load-down of all you need to know about soul conditioners.
What Does Soil Conditioner Do
In simple terms, a soil conditioner is any material that improves the soil’s physical structure. It simply means anything you add to the soil to make it a better plant growth medium.
Any substance that you add to your soil to change the structure of the soil and amend it so that there is increased aeration, nutrient, and water-holding capacity is a soil conditioner. Hence you have a wide variety of materials that are soil conditioners.
Different types of soil conditioners serve to tackle different soil challenges. So before applying any soil conditioner to your soil, you will need to conduct a soil test to know what conditions you are trying to correct.
What Kind Of Soil Require Soil Conditioners
Different soil conditions can be taken care of by a soil conditioner; some of them include:
1. Compacted/Hard Pan/Rocky Soil
This kind of soil does not have the required amount of space for air and water to support optimum plant growth, the implication is that the beneficial microbes in such soil cannot survive there, and hence they die.
We know that plants need the activities of these microorganisms to thrive. The ideal soil conditioner will introduce more air and water space in such soils.
2. Soil With Excessive Clay
Soil that is good for agricultural purposes is mostly comprised of 50% organic or inorganic matter, 25% air space, and 25% water space.
Whenever this percentage composition is altered significantly, it will affect the plants that grow in them, except you plant crops that can withstand such soil conditions. If you have soil with excess clay, it will limit the amount of air and water available for plants.
3. Soil With Excessive Sand
Soul conditioners do not change the texture of the soil, but they can alter the soil structure and hence change the way the soil particles hold themselves together and how well it holds water.
Excess sand in the soil means that the soil has low water retention ability, and we know that plants and the microorganisms in the soil need water. Hence soil conditioner on soil with excess will help their water holding capacity.
4. Nutrient-Depleted Soil
With continuous planting in soil, the soil’s nutrients can become depleted, especially if nothing is done to improve the nutrient content of the soil.
The right soil conditioner will not only add the deficient nutrient but also help the soil release the nutrient that ordinarily might not be available to plants.
5. Soils With High Salt Content
Sometimes, salt can accumulate in the soil, adversely affecting the plants growing there. These excess salts can stop plant roots from absorbing water from the surrounding soil, lowering the amount of water available to the plant.
But with the right soil conditioner like Gypsum (calcium sulfate) or lime, you can correct this challenge because it will replace the sodium salt from the soil, which will then be leached from the soil.
6. Soil With pH Extremes
the beneficial microbial activities too, anything significantly different from There is an ideal pH that will support the growth of plants in and beneficial microbes in the soil, any significant deviation from this pH can both the plants and the microorganisms.
The too-high acidity of soil can be lessened by adding a calculated amount of lime, a kind of soil conditioner. At the same time, the addition of ammonium sulfate may be used to bring down the pH level of alkaline soil.
Types of soil conditioners
There are 2 main types of soil conditioners based on their material content, and they are:
- Organic soil conditioner
- Inorganic soil conditioner
1. Organic Conditioners
Organic soil conditioners refer to all carbon-based materials that were previously living which are added to the soil to alter its soil structure. Organic conditioners are generally good for all soil types because they will always improve any soil.
These are all materials that can decompose and turn into humus which are important for maintaining or altering the structure of soils.
Below are some organic soil conditioners and their function in the soil:
1. Animal manure: this soil conditioner is useful for improving the soil structure and adding nutrients to the soil.
2. Compost: it improves the soil structure and adds nutrients to the soil.
3. Cover crops: this is another type of soil conditioner that adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil while also helping to protect the soil from erosion.
4. Biosolids: these are materials that aid in altering the structure of the soil and add nutrients, too, for example, the fine bark of hardwood.
5. Worm castings are added to the soil to improve the soil’s nutrient content.
6. Peat moss: this organic soil conditioner helps improve the porosity and the ability of the soil to hold water.
You can combine any of these materials to create a blend of soil conditioners that is best for your soil.
2. Inorganic Soil Conditioner
Inorganic soil conditioners are all non-biodegradable materials that you apply to the soil to alter the soil structure, and these materials cannot decompose.
Different organic materials serve different purposes in the soil; some are so specific in their action that you cannot arbitrarily apply them. Hence a soil test is best carried out to determine what inorganic material is needed to take care of that soil condition.
Examples of inorganic conditioners and their function:
This is a very common soil conditioner used for various purposes, including improving water infiltration, improving soil structure, help reduce erosion and runoff. It is also a good source of calcium and sulfur for plant nutrition and can be used too to treat acidic soils.
2. Agricultural Lime
This soil conditioner neutralizes the effect of acidic soils and makes them fit for plants to grow on such soils. It also helps in the decomposition of organic materials in the soil by helping to increase earthworm activities in the soil. It also increases the porosity of the soil, making it easier for water and air to circulate in soils like clay soil.
This is a naturally occurring siliceous rock that, when heated, can expand from 4 to 20 times its original volume. Hence it is used to resist soil compaction and encourages aeration in the soil. Little wonder it is used in many potting mixes.
Perlite also speeds up the germination and rooting of most plants and even improves draining and insulation in soils and potting mix.
This is a hydrous phyllosilicate mineral that, when heated, can expand up to 4 times its original size; hence it is an effective soil conditioner that can loosen compacted soil and provide air and water circulation in the soil.
How Do I Use a Soil Conditioner?
Because different materials constitute soil conditioners, there is no one way to apply them. The standard rate of application and best practices will depend on your soil: its deficiencies and requirements for an amendment, and you can only get the true need of your soil from a soil test.
If your soil conditioners are organic, you do not have a problem with how much and how you apply them because the worst-case scenario is that you will over-apply the soil conditioner. Its effect will not be too damaging; it can yield more benefits for the plants.
The manufacturer’s manual of inorganic soil conditioners always have instruction on how to use each of them, and these instructions should be carried to the last. But usually, soil Conditioners are applied before establishing a garden or lawn and mixed with the soil before starting any other thing.
Since soil conditioners are meant to alter the soul structure, they must be thoroughly and deeply mixed to get to the root zone where the plant roots most need them.
You can still apply soil conditioners to already established plants where you use them on the surface, otherwise known as a top dressing, and then the soil should be watered, so the conditioner gets to the plant’s root zone.
Poor soil produces poor plants, and if you want to change what your soil gives you, you’ve got to change what you give to the soil.
Soil conditioners, either organic or inorganic materials, can be applied to soils with issues to change their structure and improve their productivity.
So, for acidic, excessive sand or clay in the soil and other related problems, seek the best soil conditioner to deal with those issues.
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We trust this article helped you understand what soil conditioners do. You may also want to check out Best Bagged Soil For Vegetable Garden.
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