Experienced gardeners know that the most important part of your garden is your soil. Regardless of how many fertilizers or pesticides you add, if you don’t have the right soil type for the things you are planning to plant, your efforts will not come to fruition.
There are various soil issues that can present a headache for the novice or the experienced gardener; the good news is that almost any problem has an effective solution. Be aware that in cases where soil quality is really poor, it may take up to three years to improve it.
Get to Know Your Soil Type
To improve your soil, you first need to understand what your soil type is. These can vary across the country or across different gardens. Clay soil, while perfect for growing hickory, oak and maple, is also hard to work with. While it typically contains lots of healthy nutrients, it is often problematic to get water to the nutrients, as well as to keep them from getting waterlogged. Adding a clay breaker and cultivating the soil can help to improve its texture and quality.
Sandy soil is great for growing Lavandula, Buddleja and Verbena bonareinsis, and this soil is softer and easy to work with. However, it tends to have low nutrient levels, get dry quickly and can erode from wind or rain. Adding organic matter to the soil can make it friendlier to plant life.
Rocky soil is usually the most difficult for gardeners, as it’s both hard to cultivate and has very low levels of nutrients. The best solution in this case is building or buying a raised bed and filling it with the right soil type for your gardening needs.
It’s important to understand that garden soil is a living, breathing entity that is actually made up of thousands of microorganisms. They each have their own functions when it comes to soil and plants; for example, some break down mulch and dead leaves to promote plant growth, while others create hormones necessary for plants to grow abundantly. Overall, these microorganisms are responsible for “driving nutrient and organic matter cycling, soil fertility, soil restoration, plant health and ecosystem primary production.”
While some microorganisms are organically present in soil, others need to be added via nutrients to increase their abundance. Common organisms that healthy soil requires include Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Zinc, Chlorine and Nickel.
Alter pH Levels
If you tend to grow certain flowers, plants or crops in your garden, but they fail to thrive, your soil’s pH levels may be to blame. This is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline your soil is on a scale of 1.0 to 14.0, where 7.0 is neutral. If your soil measures closer to 14.0 on the scale, it is alkaline; if it measures closer to 1.0, it is acidic.
There is no magic answer about which soil type is right for your gardening needs, although most plants prefer the neutral range of 6.2 to 7.5. When the soil’s pH levels are neutral, the nutrients in the soil are more available to the plants. Various types of plants require different pH Levels. For example, cucumbers, corn, apples and basil like alkaline soil, while raspberries, sweet potatoes and parsley prefer more acidic soil.
Doing a soil test can help you determine what soil you have. If you need to alter pH levels, soil amendments are available at most home and garden stores; just make sure to gradually make the change as not to damage any healthy nutrients or organisms living in your soil.
Many gardening solutions will have you add fertilizer to help your plants grow and thrive. While it may add some benefits to your plants, it can also pose serious concerns to both your health and the state of our environment.
The use of chemical fertilizers have been linked to alterations in endocrine, immune and nervous systems, as well as fetus’ and children’s developing neurological systems. Pollution and groundwater runoff poisons wildlife and sealife, and creates greenhouse gases.
How can we get the benefits of fertilizers while lowering their negative effects? By introducing PlantCatalyst® into our gardening routine during the planting time and throughout the season. This product is made with all natural ingredients and no toxic chemicals. Just a small amount can lead to a reduction of 50 percent of fertilizer use, while still improving germination rates, strength out of germination, yield and overall production while decreasing growing times!