How to Have Great Soil How to Have Great Soil

The key to having a great garden lies within your soil. Without good soil, anything you try to plant, such as vegetables, flowers and even your lawn, will either perform poorly or not even survive. Poor soils also encourage disease and pests, as your plants are weaker and more susceptible to the scourges of nature. Fortunately, it is very easy to make sure that your soil is of good growing quality and will provide you with beautiful healthy plants.

Great Soil Practices for Your Lawn

In most areas, yards and lawns in suburban and city areas often have poor soil. Most of this stems from the construction that is done in these areas, even from years ago, which strips away the top layer of dirt, the most fertile part of the soil. The underlying soil then becomes compacted from construction machines and foot traffic, and proper amounts of air and water can no longer get through. Here are a few things that you can do to have great soil which will make your lawn beautiful.

  • Have your soil tested to determine what amendments you need to add to the soil to make it suitable for growing. Grass needs a neutral pH base to grow properly. Contact your local county extension office to learn more about soil tests. They will then analyze your soil and let you know if you need to add anything to improve your soil.
  • Use a mulching lawn mower to mulch grass clippings, and leave them on your lawn. This adds organic material and nitrogen to the lawn, which will act as free fertilizer for the soil.
  • Have your lawn aerated. Aerating the lawn yearly helps to provide oxygen to the soil. All plant roots need oxygen to survive, just like you and me.
  • Water the yard deeply and infrequently, to "teach" the roots of your grass to strengthen and grow deeper. This will also crowd out weeds.
  • Use organic fertilizers and compost, which will supply the soil with the nutrients it needs to have good structure and health. Adding only chemical fertilizer only helps the grass, not the underlying soil (in fact, it will harm the good microbes that help build-up the soil under your lawn.)

Great Soil Practices for Flowers and Vegetables

Most people at least realize the importance of having healthy soil for your vegetables to grow in. While each vegetable often has its own soil requirements, such as slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH soils, one thing remains the same - poor soil means sad, nutrient-poor vegetables. Here are some tips that you can use to help you have good soil for growing vegetables.

  • Instead of chemical fertilizers, add compost and composted manures. This will give your vegetables and flowers most of the nutrients it needs, and add microbes to the soil, which renew and create more soil underneath (it will give it that rich, dark look.)
  • Read up on each vegetable so you know exactly what it needs to grow properly. Each plant will have different requirements. For instance, tomatoes grow best with some fish emulsion and calcium, and will grow larger fruit with a lower nitrogen content.
  • Determine the amount of sunlight certain areas of your yard receives, then plant your flowers based on the amount of sunlight. Also take into account how well the soil drains. Some plants love damp soils, while others hate it. Plant your vegetable patch in full sun. If certain vegetables need shade, plant a sun-loving plant nearby to act as shade.
  • Do not heavily till the soil in the spring. Studies have shown this harms the soil microbes. Instead, top dress and gently mix in compost and manures every spring and fall.
  • After harvesting your vegetable garden, plant legumes like clover and alfalfa, which actually draw nitrogen from the air into the soil. Before seeding, plow under to let it compost in the soil. This is known as "green manure."

Chris Molnar happily toils in his garden and is the editor of Goorganicgardening.com, a website filled with tips and practices on organic gardening, soil management, composting, and garden design.

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