The use of healthy soil with traits that benefit the plants in your garden makes for a great investment. We all know soil supports plant life by supplying root systems with a way to absorb nutrients and water from the ground. The biological life within the dirt also plays a crucial role in the health of plants. Microorganisms and insects found in the soil break down organic materials and recycle nutrients into the ground. The characteristics of healthy soil revolve around its ability to perform essential ecosystem functions like absorbing and filtering water, cycling nutrients, and maintaining a healthy bionetwork. All life on earth depends on soil in one way or another so we should treat it with the respect it deserves.
Elements of Healthy Soil
Fertile soil is all about content and texture. Healthy dirt should have nutrients easily accessible to root systems and a pH of the recommended level for your plants. Essential nutrients for good soil include phosphorous and nitrogen. These elements encourage strong leaf and root growth. Other nutrients such as calcium and magnesium will also contribute to the overall health of your plants. In addition to these minerals, the pH level of the soil should fall within the range appropriate for the plants living in it. This refers to the acid/alkaline levels of the soil. Some vegetation, like blueberries, prefer acidic soil while others, like geraniums, thrive in alkaline rich soil. You can add lime or wood ash to make soil more alkaline while mixing compost or iron sulfate to make it more acidic.
Soil texture also plays an important role in judging soil types. If you aren’t sure about the soil textures, check out our article A Closer Look At Dirt: Understanding Soil Types for more information. Loam soil tends to work well across the board with an even mixture of clay, silt, and sand. Because of the even mixture, the clay contains important nutrients that the plant can easily absorb in the slow-draining soil. As a general rule, dirt that retains nutrients and allows permeation of water and air will benefit your plant life the most. Plants placed in fertile ground with the right sediment content will produce the strongest growth. Other factors such as sun exposure and climate also play an important role in the health of your plants.
How to Prepare Healthy Soil
Adding organic matter to any type of soil will boost its nutritional value. Organic matter of course means decaying plant and animal matter such as compost, manure, or peat moss. This addition of nutrient-rich materials gives plants an additional source of food for healthy growth. Home composting allows you to control what materials you feed to your ground, but you may also purchase compost. We highly recommend composting soil as this largely plant-based organic matter contains minerals easily absorbed by other plants. In the advanced stage of decomposition, compost is dark and without smell. It teems with microorganism activity, which causes soil particles to bind and form aggregates. The aggregates form pockets of air in the dirt and allows for healthy drainage, all of which is a part of a healthy soil system.
If lacks nutritional value and you don’t have access to compost, you may use inorganic or organic fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizers, which are manufactured chemically, may be found at your local home improvement store. You apply these fertilizers in either a dry form that you rake lightly at the base of a plant or in a liquid form, which you usually sprayed at the soil line. Inorganic fertilizers come with some disadvantages, the most important being that: 1) they release nutrients faster than ideal, and 2) plants may develop a tolerance over time. This means you would have to apply more and more each application to have an effect. On the other hand, organic fertilizers stay more in tune with nature. Created from the remains or by-product of a living organism, organic fertilizers naturally contain nutrients good for plants. They actively work to enhance the soil as opposed to just “feeding it” like man-made fertilizers.
Like anything else in your garden, soil requires maintenance. Now that you know the different textures and how to encourage healthy soil, the next step is to go outside and take a closer look at the dirt in your landscaping and gardens. Let us know if you need any help creating a happier place for your plants to live.