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Improving your soil will take a long term effort on your part. If your soil is extremely light (silty or sandy) you will probably want to mix in some fine-particle ingredients to make it less porous and more moisture-retentive. If your soil is very heavy (claylike) you will want to loosen it, again making it more porous and better drained.

Ways to improve your soil:

Compost is single best thing you can do to improve your soil is to compost. You can do it fast and high tech if you want, with compost tumblers that can convert yard and kitchen wastes to good dirt in a few weeks, or you can do it  by piling everything together, turning it occasionally, and letting nature run its course for the next year or two.Compost, called humus in its finished form, aerates clay soils and improves moisture retention in sandy ones. It improves soil structure and fertility for all soils.The best compost materials include horse, cow, sheep, goat, and poultry manure, fallen leaves (preferably shredded, and again, avoid black walnut leaves), grass clippings, pulled weeds, vegetable peelings, egg shells, and leftover food scraps. Meat and fish scraps should not be composted.

Mulch is a great way to add organic material to the soil, prevent erosion, reduce weeding chores, and conserve water. Mulch is a good way to cover ground attractively in shady areas under trees and shrubs, where grass grows poorly.

Spread mulch to a depth of 2-4 inches, depending on the type of mulch, on most beds. Do not pile cones of mulch around the base of trees or shrubs. This can cause rot and other health problems for the plant. Leave the area around the base of plants bare or thinly mulched (less than one inch.) The best materials for mulch include wood chips, shredded bark, leaf mold, pine needles, and composted manure.


Core Aerating your lawn is a great way to loosen compacted soils and improve water absorption and drainage. You can use a commercial service or a rental machine.Lawn aerator shoes are not recommended because the small size of the spikes can actually compact the soil further.

Improving Clay Soil will take manual labor however the structure of your soil willallow for easier planting. Most of the work is done up front, with some annual chores to continue improving your soil.To improve your soil, you’ll need to add six to eight inches of organic matter to the entire bed. You can add any organic matter you can get your hands on. Grass clippings (as long as they haven’t been treated with chemicals), shredded leaves, rotted manure, and compost are all perfect choices. Spread your organic matter on top of the soil. The organic matter needs to be mixed into the top six to twelve inches of soil. Digging it in and mixing it with a shovel is a great way to do this, as it moves a lot of earth without pulverizing the soil particles the way tilling can. When finished, your garden bed will be several inches higher than it was originally. It will settle some over the course of a season, but the soil structure will keep improving as microorganisms in the soil work to break down all of the organic matter you’ve added. The bed can be planted immediately, however. You’ll be adding more organic matter on the top of the bed once or twice a year. This will continue the process of improving the soil’s structure and offset any settling that happens.

Improving Light Soil

Silty or sandy soils suffer the opposite troubles from clay like soils.  They tend to be so porous that water and nutrients flush through, and this means overly frequent watering and feeding. But they can be cultivated and trod upon at any time of year without fear of compacting them–a concern with clays. You can increase their ability to hold moisture by adding clay-like materials or organic materials. About five percent clay thoroughly tilled six inches deep into sandy soil, or two or three inches of organic material similarly mixed in.

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