Wondering how to improve dehydrated soil that’s lacking life?

First I’ll explain how garden soil dries out…

Our bodies get dehydrated, animals get dehydrated, plants get dehydrated and after long periods of dry weather soil also become dehydrated.

This is known as ‘Hydrophobic Soil’.

After dry weather, or lack of watering, if soil lacks important organic ingredients it will actually repel water, rather than it soaking in, once it rains or is watered.


How to notice hydrophobic soil… 

Here’s a small garden that’s slightly sheltered from the rain.

After a few months of limited water and hot weather the soil won’t take any of the water applied. The soil is in very poor condition.

The main particles in healthy soil are decomposed organic ingredients. These are natural ingredients that were once living organisms.

The more natural ingredients in the soil, the better moisture retention. 

If you’ve found your soil is dry and dead, follow these simple steps to bring it back to life!

Gather a few of these ingredients…(you won’t need all of them so gather the ones that are easiest to find)

  • Compost – THE best form of organic matter. Compost is decomposing items that were once living. Eg fruit and veggie scraps. Follow this link to my super easy ‘In-Garden’ Composting Method - Do you know how to compost?
  • Mushroom Compost – also great to add to dry soil.
  • Old animal manure – find this in bags for sale along the side of country roads. Allow it to break down for about a month before placing in gardens. Or purchase bags of rotted manure at your local garden centre or hardware store.
  • Garden and lawn clippings – both great to enrich your soil. Make sure there’s no weed seeds included in lawn clippings, as they’ll sprout in your garden!!
  • Mulch – Cane, hay or other mulched plant matter helps to improve soil and retain moisture during dry times.
  • Coir peat – a sustainable resource from coconut fibre. This retains moisture in garden soil and potting mix.
  • Worm castings and liquid – great to have a home worm farm. Add worm poo and worm wee to your soil…It will love it!! (so will the kids!) Learn more about Worm Farms HERE
  • Blood & bone (one of my faves), organic fertilisers and organic liquid plant fertilisers.

 Follow this method

  • remove any mulch and weeds in the garden
  • give your soil a gentle dig with a garden fork. Don’t turn the soil over, just push your fork in and give it a wiggle around.
  • give the soil/ground a good hose with water before applying ingredients. This will help to retain moisture in the lower levels of soil.
  • sprinkle Blood & Bone (as per application rate on bag).
  • apply a 5-10cm layer of chopped garden clippings or a thin layer (about 2-5cm) fresh green lawn clippings.
  • apply 5-10cm layer of compost, rotted manure or mushroom compost.
  • cover with a 5cm layer of cane mulch
  • give the area a good watering to wet all ingredients OR apply a few full watering cans of diluted worm liquid or organic liquid fertiliser.

Get your hands in the mix (gloves on) to ensure everything is nicely damp. If not, water again.

Allow the ingredients to ‘rest’ for approx. 2-3 weeks. Checking moisture levels weekly (keep moist and then start planting in your garden.

TIPif you have existing plants growing, but need to improve soil, just apply the ingredients around plants ensuring ingredients are 5cm away from stems or main trunk.

The same thing happens to potting mix in pot plants that have dried out.

I suggest soaking the pot plant in a bucket full of water, with added liquid fertiliser, for about 20 – 30 minutes. You’ll notice lots of bubbles coming to the surface…This means one dry plant!

You can re-pot with a blend of the old soil and fresh posting mix to help potted plants retain moisture.

I hope this helps to improve dry soil in your garden. 

If you have any questions then head to our Soil to Supper Facebook Club and post questions or garden problems you have. I’m there each day to support you! 

© cath manuel 11 february 2015

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