A Fine Gardener Digs into The Truth About Soil

By Izanami Sep27,2022

Soil isn’t just dirt that absorbs water and grows plants. It’s a living and breathing ecosystem that’s invisible to the naked eye. You need to make sure that you nurture it the right way to improve its quality and help the microorganisms that do the job thrive in it. If you want to transform your garden, you can hire professional help by searching for “landscape companies near me”. Let’s check out the truth about soil and how you can improve it.

The Details

1. Compost – Compost is organic matter that is decomposed and broken down. Irrespective of the condition of your soil, adding compost always improves it. When you mix soil with compost, you feed the tiny microbes living in it and feed the soil with plant fuel. Compost also improves the texture of the soil and allows it to hold more nutrients. The improved soil texture also improves soil drainage and aeration.

This helps plant roots to absorb nutrients more easily and breathe properly. When the soil is improved with compost, the soil level also gets balanced to a neutral level and that helps plants stay away from all kinds of diseases. The worms in the soil would also feed on the compost and bore tunnels in the soil to keep improving aeration and drainage. The castings left by the worms would act as organic matter to increase the fertility of the soil.

2. Soil test – Before you add compost or do anything to the soil, it’s important to get it tested. Toxification and compaction are the greatest threats to your garden soil in modern times. A soil test can tell you what you need to do to fix and improve your soil in a precise manner. You can buy soil testing kits online or from physical gardening stores.

Using these kits is very easy. If you’re not confident in soil testing kits, you can also send soil samples of your garden to a local county extension office for an in-depth analysis. However, that would cost you significantly more money.

The basic soil testing kit can provide you with information on the pH level of the soil. Apart from that, it also gives you readings about the macronutrients in the soil including potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, and magnesium. The test would also tell you about the lead content and a few common toxic substances found in the soil.

When you’re aware of the nutrients lacking in the soil, you can nourish it accordingly with the necessary organic ingredients. For instance, if the soil is low on potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen, alfalfa meal can improve it. Similarly, bone meal improves calcium and phosphorus content in the soil. Stay away from fertilizers. Even if you choose to add fertilizers, buy only organic ones.

3. Mulch – Mulching is essential to maintain healthy soil and strong plants. The mulch protects the soil from erosion by wind, rain, and other forces of nature. Apart from that, mulching also helps to keep the soil cool during the summer and warm during the winter. That way, the roots of your garden plants can survive through harsh conditions.

Mulch also blocks out sunlight and prevents weeds from growing and competing with your garden plants. Make sure to use organic mulch made from wood chips, dry leaves, and other such materials. That way, the organic mulch can slowly decompose on the soil and increase its fertility.

4. Prevent compaction – When soil is compacted, it becomes denser and harder. Hard soil is bad for both drainage and aeration. Roots won’t be able to absorb nutrients properly from the soil and due to lack of aeration, they may start rotting or develop root diseases. Lack of aeration is also bad for soil fertility since the microorganisms and worms that decompose organic matter into nutrients won’t be able to do their job.

When soil is too wet or has a lot of clay content, it is prone to compaction. To prevent that, you need to make sure to check the wetness of the soil before watering it or add compost to the clayey soil to improve its structure and make it looser. It’s also important to develop garden beds and pathways in such a way that it keeps you off from the soil and minimizes compaction. If you want to go a step further, you can also try out no-till garden beds. 

5. Rotate crops – Planting different crops in different parts of the garden with changing seasons is the best way to prevent nutrient depletion from the soil. It also makes the plants more prone to infections from pests and diseases. For instance, if you keep planting potatoes season after season, the soil is going to be full of fungi and nematodes that cause scabby skin patches on potatoes. Those pathogens would ruin the entire harvest after just a couple of years.

To keep those pathogens at bay, you need to rotate crops so that they don’t get their preferred food and die off. Follow the three-year rule so that the same family of crops isn’t grown in the same area for three consecutive years. On the other hand, rotating with legumes and cover crops increases the fertility and nutrient content of the soil.  

6. Animal manure – Animal manure can also improve your garden soil and breathe new life into it. However, you need to let it dry and age so that it doesn’t burn and kill plants with excessive nitrogen and live pathogens. It’s also important to select manure that comes from animals that have fed on herbicide and pesticide-free hay or grains.      

Conclusion

Nurturing the microorganisms in the soil, practicing crop rotation, and adding organic matter are different ways of improving your soil. It’s also important to not use toxic chemical fertilizers that pollute the soil and kill the microbes living in it. On the other hand, if you want to improve your landscape, you can hire pros for the job by searching for “landscape companies near me”. 

By Izanami

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