Soil Quality – How it Affects Your Plants
Soil quality determines the quality of your plants; the volume of water needed to produce crops; and ultimately – your production costs.
Through years of over-usage, soil becomes depleted of nutrients and can eventually be devoid of the fertile qualities needed to cultivate healthy plants. Overusing herbicides also results in poor soil condition and negative soil humus content. Adding quality, nutrient-rich organic matter back to the soil is the most important critical action needed to reactivate plant growth.
It is estimated that a 1% increase in the organic matter of your soil could result in the soil holding 170 000ℓ more water per hectare. This is especially important in South Africa's current drought. Compost introduces organic matter and much-needed micro-organisms to the soil. It energises the entire soil ecosystem, which is made up of microscopic bacteria and fungi, as well as earthworms and other insects. Compost also helps to retain moisture and enhances the ability of vegetables and plants to withstand common diseases. Many researchers believe that good, organic compost also improves the flavour and nutritional value of food. Through composting, you enhance your production, while at the same time reducing your waste.
Depending on the quality of your soil, you should add between 3 and 20cm of compost to your soil. Once you have worked the compost into the soil, cover the soil with mulch to cool it down and retain moisture; when the soil temperature rises, its ability to absorb moisture decreases.
Why use Organic Compost?
Composting is a method of breaking down organic materials into a product that is beneficial to feed both soil and plants. Organic compost contains only plant- or animal-based materials. These materials are either a by-product or end-product of naturally occurring processes.
Inorganic fertiliser on the other hand, is manufactured artificially and contains minerals or synthetic chemicals.
Manure is high in nitrates and contains animal pathogens. Organic compost uses a heating-sterilising process that breaks down any pathogens, leaving only a sterile weed-free rich final product. Organic compost also better retains the moisture in your soil, improves the physical soil structure and reduces soil-borne diseases.Don't Forget to Mulch
Mulching is also a vital step in soil health, as it protects the roots of plants from temperature fluctuations, minimises the use of herbicides and retains water, thereby reducing water usage – a priority in our current drought conditions.Use Top Quality Organic Compost Suppliers
At SALI we care both about the quality of South African soil, and the harmful effects of soil erosion on the environment.
Be sure to source your compost from any of the SALI Selected Suppliers.
What does your soil need?
Sandy soil: 12mm fine or 30mm medium compost
Clay-like soil: 30mm medium, 50mm coarse or unscreened compostWhen to add compost?
Any time of the year! As a general rule, always incorporate compost into your beds before each planting season, as well as just before the rainy season starts.
Author: Hilda Stanfliet
Photo cred: Reliance Compost