Amending Soil in Gardening


Think of garden soil as the furniture of the flower bed. This environment provides a good place for plants to eat, rest and grow. Increasing the quality of soils involves mixing additives into the existing dirt to improve growing conditions. Amending soils in gardening refers to the act of conditioning soil with additives such as peat moss, compost, humus, sand, lime or fertilizers to boost the soil's nutrient value.

Step 1

Conduct a soil test of the garden site. Purchase a test kit or enlist the help of a reputable garden center to analyze the soil. The results determine which ingredients to add to the soil base to create the best environment for your plants.

Step 2

Get a clear picture of your soil's condition by digging a few practice holes. Imagine soils as a layered cake in your garden site. The top layer consists of lightly decomposed organic material in the process of breaking down into soil material. The next layer consists of topsoil, a rich organic soil bed that serves as the home for the majority of plant roots. Subsoil lies below the topsoil level and presents a challenge for plant root penetration.

Step 3

Remove weeds before amending. Create a weed-free environment for new plants with proper weed removal using a shallow cultivator such as a hoe. The hoe pulls weeds right out of the ground and leaves behind a plot ready to accept amendments.

Step 4

Cultivate the soil before adding amendments. The most effective method of amending soil involves blurring the distinctive lines between soil layers with cultivation. Dig down deeply into the garden bed to a depth of at least 6 inches for annual beds and 12 or more inches for vegetable and perennial gardens. Stir up the soil using a shovel or rototiller. Breaking up compacted, tough soil layers allows plant roots the freedom to expand with maturity.

Step 5

Add recommended amendments after initial cultivation. Add one amendment at a time, mixing the additive throughout the garden bed and deeply into the soil. This ensures even distribution and benefits for every plant in your garden.

Step 6

Add compost to boost organic material by 20 to 30 percent. No garden suffers from the addition of organic material. Compost or peat moss should always be added during the amendment process to increase organic content in the soil and limit the need for fertilizers.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test kit
  • Soil additives (based on soil test)
  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Tiller (optional)
  • Rake
  • Hoe


  • University of Minnesota: Amending Soils for Perennial Beds
  • Colorado State University: Choosing a Soil Amendment
Keywords: amending soil, amending garden soil, soil additives

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.