Leach said gardeners also should expect to add soil amendments, or elements to improve the soil’s texture or composition.
“The misunderstanding that many new gardeners have is that once you fix your soil, it’s fixed, but organic matter is constantly shifting, and the hotter and wetter it is, the faster it will decompose and disappear,” she said.
Gardeners can make their own soil amendments by starting a composting pile or buying a composting bin that can be turned often, or they can buy organic matter that’s not treated with herbicide.
“You can buy bagged compost and manure; [however] in manures, if the animal grazed in a pasture treated with herbicide, the manure may have residual herbicides for two years,” Leach said. “That can keep plants from germinating or can stunt plants.” She added that the manure industry is aware of this problem and is trying to better source where the manures come from.
Tim Millard, a backyard gardener in Roanoke, has planted vegetable gardens for the past two years. He created his own composting bin by combining sawdust and grass clippings in a 95-gallon drum that he turns regularly.
“It continues to break down so much that by July, I had a pile that was probably 100 cubic yards to put back into my garden,” he said.
Millard warns that gardeners should be aware of their soil content before adding anything to it. He evaluated his soil by sending away for a testing kit that revealed he has sandy loam, which could take a little more silt.