Enrich your garden soil for free this autumn

Autumn is the time when gardeners dig compost into their beds because the ground is still warm enough to work and the soil will be enriched over winter.

Online horticultural expert Huw Richards, who has one of the biggest gardening channels on YouTube, says adding unusual ingredients including coffee grounds, seaweed and hair to the mix can boost your soil.

These are some of his favourite soil-enriching additions.

1. Hair

Visit a hair salon to get a bag of hair (but not dyed or bleached), which contains nitrogen. Give it a year to mature and then mix it into the compost with other materials.

2. Spent hops

If you have any local breweries, visit one to pick up some spent hops, which have been soaked for a long time. They are high in nitrogen.

Read more: The emotional stages of brewing your own beer

3. Shredded paper

If you know of an office that shreds paper, pick some up to add to the mix. It contains carbon and also will help the soil retain moisture. And don’t worry about the ink, which often contains micro-nutrients. However, don’t use paper that has a gloss finish or is heavily inked, as this may contain toxins.

4. Coffee grounds

Visit your local coffee shop for spent coffee grounds. While fresh coffee grounds are acidic, used grounds are neutral.

They contain nitrogen and have a pH of around 6.5-7, which is ideal for many plants. Spread handfuls around your plants like a mulch but avoid using grounds on soil around acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas and blueberries.

Read more: Five of the world’s most beautiful gardens

5. Crushed eggshells

If you crush up eggshells to add to your compost, they provide a slow release of calcium, which is particularly beneficial when growing produce such as tomatoes.

6. Seaweed

Seaweed contains all the main elements to boost soil including nitrogen, potassium, phosphate, magnesium, iodine and calcium. If you live in a coastal area, storms will wash up mounds of brown, red and green seaweed.

Collect a variety if you can as they have different nutrient levels. You can chop it up and use it sparingly. Put it directly on to beds but don’t place it in planting holes or directly on to plants as it is salty. However, the autumn rains should wash the excess salt away.

Read more: What you should know when using potting mix and soils

7. Wood ash

Don’t use ash from a barbecue if you are using charcoal, but wood ash from hard woods is fine to add to compost. It tends to be a bit more acidic and is good for plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.

What do you do to prepare your garden for winter? Have you used any of these things to enrich your soil?

– With PA

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