Preparing Your Soil

Improving garden soil is a continual process.  Add organic material every year to make the clay soil of New Mexico better for the plant roots.  Healthy soil will help healthier plants grow.  If you are starting a garden this year, you have a few weeks to prepare your soil.  If you have been gardening for years in the same area, you can still continue to add organic material to have better soil properties this year.

One of the goals in growing your own organic food is to save money.  If you go to the garden stores and nurseries there are lots of expensive organic products that say they will improve your soil.  They have useful ingredients and organic material that will improve your soil. Can you use materials that are less expensive?  Many New Mexico farmers and gardeners use two things, aged manure and compost.  These can be picked up or created for a lower cost than buying products.  Plan to start your manure and compost projects this season to have them ready for next spring.  Here are a few tips for locating composted or aged manure and compost for this season.


In New Mexico, horse manure seems to be prevalent and it used in all types of gardens.  It should be composted and broken down before it is placed in the soil.

Get manure from a place with horses instead of buying it at the store.  ”Mother Earth News” has reported manure burning plants from horse areas that use an herbicide called aminopyralid.  Ask your gardener friends where they get manure or drive around horse properties and see if they use organic practices in their gardening and will let you pick up some manure.  It should be aged so that it is already broken down and can be worked into the soil.  This will also decompose any deworming medicine that could kill earthworms in your planting beds.  Placing fresh manure in the soil will rob it of nitrogen as the manure breaks down and this will rob it from your plants, causing them to grow more slowly.

If you can find aged (6 months or older) manure now, add about a one inch depth and work in with a garden fork.  If you can not locate now, make sure that you add compost before planting your garden.  You can add fresher manure in October and let it decompose in your garden over the winter.


Compost is an amazing organic material that basically is created from  a lot of your trash.  If you need to buy some in Santa Fe, Sam McCarthy at Payne’s Soil Yard has great expertise and sells a premium compost in bulk.  I have also purchased organic compost with chicken manure at Santa Fe Greenhouse.

There are all types of methods for figuring out how much compost you need.  Most commonly known is 3 to 4 inches over the garden and then mixed in with a garden fork.  Don’t plant straight into compost as it will hold more water than soil and will inhibit plant growth.  Talk with the place that you purchase the compost for their recommendation.  You should also make sure that you purchase organic compost.  It will be labeled on the bag.  If it is not labeled, then I would not purchase it as some compost materials could have been grown with chemicals that could enter your garden.

5 responses to “Preparing Your Soil

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