I don’t care what anyone says when it comes to gardening, success or failure rests on, or better yet, in your soil. Soil is the blood of the garden. With more microorganisms in a teaspoon than there are people on the planet, it is easy to see why. All of the interactions between the various organisms, hyphae, fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates in the garden make up the soil food web.
The soil food web is the same as any other food web you learned in school. Everything has a predator, so bigger organisms eat smaller organisms. This balance achieved through this interaction is harmonious.
In gardening, the soil is overlooked or neglected, and it does not get the care and respect that is needed or deserved. Soil should be light, fluffy, and retain moisture but not be waterlogged. The soil should be rich and full of life, not chemicals and salts. Keep that in mind next time you are out in the garden.
Here are 6 ways to improve your soil quality:
- Try not to walk on the soil. Doing so puts immense pressure on the particles and forces them to compact. Remember, the goal is to keep the soil fluffy. Compaction closes off channels through which water, nutrients, and roots work their way.
- Whenever possible, practice organic gardening. Synthetic fertilizers usually contain heavy salts, which tend to destroy the soil biology we are working to produce.
- Keep soil covered. Whether you are in season or out of season, currently growing something or not, you must keep the garden soil covered. Leaving soil exposed to the elements can cause topsoil erosion and promote weed growth. Covering the soil or Mulching protects the ground, providing a protective material layer on topsoil.
- Test your soil. These tests tell you what is in your soil. Whether there is, it is too much or too little of the nutrients. They also give you fertilization recommendations to get your soil to optimal levels of these nutrients. How can we know what to add to the garden soil if we don’t know what is already present?
- Amend your soil. After receiving the soil test results, notice what your soil is missing and apply accordingly. I say, amend the soil and not fertilize because you fertilize plants, not soil.
- Pay attention when adding fertilizer. Read the label and mix the ratios accordingly. The old saying “more is better” does not apply here. Excess fertilizer use comes with problems of its own such as nutrient lockout.
Pay attention to these tips, and you can help improve and preserve your soil. The members of the soil food web will thank you. Now stop reading, get out in the garden and JUST GROW IT!