Frugal Gardening 101:: How to Improve Soil

by GettingFreedom on April 19, 2011

Southern Missouri is known for it’s soil.  Yet, not in a good way!  Instead of our soil being black, we’ve got maybe 6 inches worth of rock-filled dirt on top of endless red clay.  It’s known, but not for what it can grow!

Our Back Yard

So, how does one go about improving their soil without having truckloads of topsoil trucked in??  It’s simple!  Amending your soil not only improves the existing soil, but it restores nutrients to your current garden soil. Those vegetables you are planting take lots of nutrients out of your soil, which is why a lot of people rely heavily on fertilizer.  If you amend your soil regularly, you will cut your fertilizer dependency way down, if not out completely.

How to Improve/Amend Your Soil


Compost is free and loaded with tons of nutrients.  It’s as simple as saving all of your organic kitchen waste {no meats/bones}, combining them with leaves, sticks, grass clippings and letting it all break down outside.  The worms love it, and so will your plants!  No need to purchase any fancy compost tumblers–you can easily make your own, or even use a corner of your garden and make a compost pile.  Just remember to rotate it about once a week.

Aged Manure

Make sure that the manure has had a chance to decompose and is dark, crumbly and odorless.  Fresh manure has too much ammonia and will burn your plants.  Also–be sure you know where the manure comes from and what the animals ate if you are wanting to maintain an organic,  GMO-free garden space.

Grass Clippings

Make sure your grass clippings are completely free of any and all weed killers, otherwise you will pass them along to your garden plants and your garden soil.  After you’ve mowed your lawn, collect the grass clipping and place around your plants like mulch and into your garden beds.  They will decompose slowly and help feed the organisms living in the soil, and help keep moisture in the plant–all the while adding back in valuable nutrients to your soil; mostly nitrogen and potassium.  The grass clippings, if free from seeds, will also help choke out the weeds.


Place all of those fallen leaves into your garden beds, or even at the base of your plants which creates a mulch-like effect.  This method also cuts down on weeds.


We use straw quite frequently, even though it tends to be quite debatable among gardeners.  I like that it helps to suppress the weeds, and it is an organic matter.  Also, because of our clay, it helps to fluff up our soil a bit and keep it from compacting {as do all the other options mentioned above}.  For best results, use straw that has already began to rot.

Garden Soil After Being Amended

{Please forgive the coloring in this photo!  I apparently changed a setting on my son’s camera,  and I didn’t notice it until it was too late to snap a new picture.}

This is what our soil looks like now, after being amended and improved for the last 4 years. When we began, it looked very similar to the above photo of our back yard!

Hop on over to AmysFinerThings and enter to win some seed packets, and check out SmockityFrocks FREE Pea Trellis! If you missed it, here is my tutorial on our FREE Potting Table.

Now it’s your turn! Remember to link to your gardening post, not your blog’s main page, and include a link back here so your readers can join the fun.

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