4 Free Soil Amendments for Your Garden

A healthy garden starts with healthy soil. Work to improve the structure, pH and nutrient content of your soil, and you'll have fewer problems with your plants and with garden pests. Here are some free soil amendments to use in your garden:

1
Leaf Mold

Making Leaf Mold
Flickr / cc / far closer

Composted leaves, commonly referred to as leaf mold, are a fantastic soil amendment. They improve water retention and soil structure, and encourage lots of beneficial bacteria and earthworms to take set up shop in your garden. To make leaf mold, just build a bin in your yard, fill it with leaves, and wait for them to compost. If you want to speed up the process, run the leaves over with your lawn mower before you throw them in your bin.

2
Wood Ash

Wood Ash
Erin Huffstetler

Need a good reason to clean out your fireplace? Here it is: wood ash is a natural liming agent, which means it'll help you tame your too-acidic soil. Just work it into the soil, and it'll help you get that pH in check. And since wood ash contains both calcium and potassium, it'll feed your plants at the same time.

Note: Avoid using wood ash under your azaleas, blueberries, hydrangeas and other acid-loving plants. Also avoid using it around salt-sensitive plants.

3
Coffee Grounds

Coffee Grounds
Erin Huffstetler

Improve soil structure and nutrient content by adding used coffee grounds to your garden soil. In an independent lab test, Sunset Magazine found that grounds are rich in phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and copper. Here's where you can get lots of coffee grounds for free.

4
Compost

Compost topdressing for lawn
By normanack [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Start a compost pile, so you won't have to pay for compost or deal with the hassle of lugging it home. A good home-grown batch of compost will improve soil structure, giving you that nice crumbly texture that gardeners crave, and help the soil to retain moisture between waterings.