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What Is Soil Conditioner?

Soil conditioners can improve the quality of soil.
Some soil conditioners are worked into the soil by using a tiller prior to planting.
A pH test. A soil conditioner may be used to adjust the pH level of the soil.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2014
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Soil conditioner is a product which is added to soil to improve the soil quality. Soil conditioners can be used to rebuild soils which have been damaged by improper management, to make poor soils more usable, and to maintain soils in peak condition. A wide variety of products can be used to manage soil quality, with most being readily available from nurseries and garden supply stores. People can also generate their own soil conditioner with materials from home.

Many soil conditioners are designed to improve soil structure in some way. Soils tend to become compacted over time, which is bad for plants, and soil conditioners can add more loft and texture to keep the soil loose. They also add nutrients, enriching the soil and allowing plants to grow bigger and stronger. Soil conditioners may be used to improve water retention in dry, coarse soils which are not holding water well, and they can be added to adjust the pH of the soil to meet the needs of specific plants or to make highly acidic or alkaline soils more usable.

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Some examples of soil conditioner include: bonemeal, peat, coffee grounds, compost, coir, manure, straw, vermiculite, sulfur, lime, bloodmeal, compost tea, chemical fertilizers, and sphagnum moss. Mulches are also a form of soil conditioner, as they are used to help the soil retain moisture and nutrients so that plants remain healthy. Many soil conditioners come in the form of certified organic products, for people concerned with maintaining an organic garden, and they can be low cost or free. Compost, for example, can be produced at home, along with compost tea. Coffee grounds can often be obtained for free from restaurants and coffee houses which are more than happy to have someone to take away their waste.

Some soil conditioners are worked into the soil with a tiller before planting. Others may be applied after planting, or periodically during the growing season, as is the case with many chemical fertilizers and mulches. Before applying soil conditioner, it is a good idea to perform soil testing to learn more about the composition and structure of the soil, as this testing will determine which conditioners will be more appropriate for the conditions.

While adding a garden soil conditioner can seem like a great way to get a garden healthier, it is possible to overdo it. Fertilizers, for example, are not productive when they are added in excess; over fertilization can make some plants sick, and it also generates runoff into neighboring waterways, which is harmful for the environment.

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GardenManna
Post 9

I agree with this content and I have found that the single MOST important factor when it comes to growing your own, be it in your garden or in pots, is the soil condition, and the quality of the microflora contained within. Having your soil condition perfectly balanced to maximise growth, yield, nutrition and flavour is as simple as adding 100 percent natural and organic soil conditioner to your regular watering.

turquoise
Post 8

@shell4life-- No, don't use manure! Manure can carry viruses passed on from animals and transfer it to the soil and to other animals who are around there. It might also have seeds of weeds in them and you might end up getting a bunch of weeds in your garden.

Not just that, but manure also takes a long time (months and months) to start transferring nutrients to the soil. Commercially sold dry or liquid soil conditioner is a lot better. And you don't have to get one with chemicals in it. You can get an all-natural one like the article mentioned.

ysmina
Post 7

@anon80359-- As far as I know, that's lake silt. It's the sediment that accumulates on the bottom of lakes. There are several brands that make soil conditioners from it. I think it's called 'Wealth Earth' or 'Earth Right' soil conditioner or something like that.

My neighbor uses this kind of conditioner for his garden and he told me it works really well. It's not very cheap though because it has to be taken from lakes in a special way and then processed. But it's ecological so it's returning nutrients from nature to nature and won't add chemicals to the soil and groundwater.

fBoyle
Post 6

@shell4life-- Well, it really depends on the condition of your soil and the plants.

I suggest that you do a soil test first to check the pH level of the soil. Different soil conditioners have different pH and if you pick the wrong one, the soil can lose its balance. For example, lime soil conditioners have alkaline pH and pine bark has acidic pH.

You can have an extension service test your soil. It doesn't cost much and is more reliable than do-it-yourself kits. Once you know what the pH of the soil is, you can check pH levels of soil conditioners at the store and get one that's close.

It's also a good idea to check which pH levels are most suitable for your plants and compare with your soil's current composition.

cloudel
Post 5

Bonemeal is a great type of organic fertilizer, and if you grow tulips, it is really the best thing to use. You put it on the ground after you have buried the bulbs and water it thoroughly so that it can soak in and give them nutrients.

The only thing you have to watch out for is animals. Bonemeal is actually made of ground up bones, so dogs and other critters are drawn to it. They will go crazy when they smell it and potentially dig up your garden.

I have my garden area fenced in, so I didn't have issues with this. My neighbor said that armadillos dug up his bulbs after he used bonemeal, though.

Kristee
Post 4

@shell4life – You might want to try using pine straw. It actually has a pleasant scent, and it worked great for me as a lawn soil conditioner.

I have a bunch of pine trees on the property beside my front yard, so I had plenty of pine straw fall there naturally. I left it there for many months, and when I finally decided to harvest it and use it as mulch, I saw that the ground underneath had turned a rich, dark color.

Pine straw, when left in place for months, will make the soil beneath fluffy and dark. This is the best kind to grow stuff in, and if you have access to pine trees, it is also the cheapest kind!

Use a layer of pine straw about two to three inches thick. This will keep weeds from growing, and it will be enough to enrich the soil.

shell4life
Post 3

I am looking for a good organic soil conditioner. I will be planting a bunch of chrysanthemums and other fall flowers in late September, and I would like to start getting the ground prepared. I think the plants will fare better if the soil has had a chance to absorb some nutrients before they arrive.

Some people have told me I should use manure, but I just can't bear the thought of handling it. I know that I could use a shovel, but still, I would have to smell it.

What is the best type of organic soil conditioner for use around fall blooming plants? Is any one better than another?

StarJo
Post 2

I was looking for something to enrich my garden soil, and I came across a bag of something called organic hummus. It is a natural soil conditioner that resembles potting soil, only it doesn't have those little white flecks in it.

It is made of decomposed organic matter, and it feels cool to the touch. I like to put it around the base of my plants after putting them in the ground.

I also mixed some of this into the dirt when I tilled it before planting. It's great for sowing seed in, and it really seems to make things grow better.

I had only heard of hummus as a food product before, so I was surprised to see this stuff in a garden center. However, it is some of the best soil conditioner I have ever used.

anon80359
Post 1

Does anybody know about the sapropel?

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