Soil is one of the most important building blocks of a healthy garden. It anchors a plant’s roots, facilitates their water supply, helps them breathe and offers nutrients to support growth.
It also provides a home for billions of bacteria and other microorganisms, most of which we can’t see. Soil is also full of life, and it’s a delight to watch it flourish!
1. Add Organic Matter
Adding organic matter to soil is an excellent way to promote healthy plants and soil. It can also help you to improve drainage, reduce erosion and conserve water.
The main sources of organic matter are plant and animal residues such as grass clippings, leaves and composts. If these materials are directly added to the soil, they add nitrogen and other nutrients that are important to your garden.
It can take several years to build organic matter levels in a soil, so it is important to start early and work it into the soil regularly. You can do this by adding organic amendments to your soil at each planting.
Mulching is a simple gardening chore that can have a significant impact on your soil. It can help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
Mulch can also improve the structure and fertility of your soil, and over time, can help prevent erosion. It can also look pretty and add an appealing finishing touch to your landscaping.
There are many types of mulches, including wood chips, shredded bark, grass clippings, leaf mold and compost. The best ones are organic and have little or no additives.
3. Avoid Compaction
Soil compaction is a major problem for many growers. It can reduce crop yields, causing nutrient loss, soil erosion, and poor growing conditions.
Soil compacting increases density and lowers aeration and water holding capacity. It can also negatively impact soil biological health and texture.
Fields at the highest risk of soil compaction are fields with wet or moist soils. Soil should be dry enough to work before heavy equipment is operated on it, and a penetrometer can help verify this.
Keep axle loads low on heaviest pieces of farm equipment to minimize subsoil compaction. This is especially important on grain carts and manure spreaders, which may be loaded for long periods of time.
4. Test Your Soil
Taking a soil sample is an easy way to get a better understanding of how healthy your soil is. It’s a great way to find out if you need to add more organic matter or amend your soil with fertilizers or lime.
Test your soil for acidity (pH). When the pH level is too low, it’s hard for plants to take up the nutrients they need.
Also, test for phosphorus and potassium, which are important nutrients that can make plants more resistant to pests and disease. It’s essential to have both of these elements in the right amounts to grow a good-looking garden.
5. Keep It Healthy
Healthy soils are a vital part of any garden, lawn, or landscape. They support healthy plant growth and fend off pests and disease.
Soil is a complex mix of physical, biological and nutritive properties. The physical components of a soil – such as sand, silt and clay – determine the way it physically behaves, its structure, how nutrient levels are balanced and how easy it is for beneficial soil biology to thrive.
Air also plays a role in how well the soil can hold water, provide nutrients for plants and sustain a diverse living community of microbes, fungi and insects. A soil that is well-aerated has about 25 percent air space between its particles.