The Foundation for Success as a Gardener: Soil

As we move through the winter months and start to envision our spring gardens, it’s crucial to think about the soil on which these gardens will thrive. In our series of articles about soil, we will explore a multitude of topics so that even the most beginner-level gardeners can feel comfortable making decisions regarding their soil.

The importance of soil

To build infrastructures such as buildings or roads, you first have to analyze the soil. Soil holds our water bodies in their respective and functioning places, and it stores and protects our valuable drinking water.

Almost everything we eat is grown in soil. It is the basis for which all life begins and a building block for how life is sustained.

So, naturally, we must begin with the soil to ensure success in the garden.

Soil Composition

In order to understand soil, we will discuss its different types. We’ll do this by examining the particles that make up soil and how they interact with each other, and with the water and nutrients that are needed to grow plants. This is the soil texture, and knowing this information will help to determine what you have to work with. No expensive testing materials required! This step will give you an idea of how to begin preparing your garden.

Aside from texture, there are some other soil qualities you will want to gather information on:

  • Soil pH tells you if you are dealing with acidic or alkaline conditions, and a number too far on either side of the scale may not be optimal for most garden plants.
  • The structure of the soil provides information on the success of water, roots, and emerging seedlings to move throughout. Bountiful living organisms in the ground will foster good nutrient availability or even help with keeping a nice soil structure.

Another crucial soil quality factor is organic matter content.

hand holding soil

Organic matter content

Organic matter is plant or animal matter that is in the process of decomposing.

The final, decomposed product contributes so many positive benefits. Added organic matter can improve structure by helping sandy soil retain more water, or by aiding in breaking up dense clay aggregates. Soil nutrients like to cling to organic matter compounds.

This means there is more fertility for garden plants to thrive on, and carbon is added as organic matter breaks down. Yummy food for soil microorganisms!

How to improve your soil

To improve upon the soil you already have, we will discuss some amendment methods such as aeration and tilling of garden beds. This can aid in improving soil structure and making direct sowing a breeze. Amending for pH or lack of nutrients is also a possibility, so we will discuss how to approach these situations.

You can add organic matter in many ways for all the positive benefits previously mentioned. It will also be necessary to consider how you will keep your soil covered in the off-season months. You want to make sure you retain all the hard work you put into your soil.

We can give you the steps to take in order to prepare your soil for a successful season, and let you in on some tips and tricks to continue building quality soil throughout the season.

Selecting plants according to your garden’s soil

Ready to jump right in and get started on your garden? You may find it helpful to adjust what type of plants you will grow this year rather than making a ton of soil amendments.

There are plenty of plants that are adapted to different sorts of pH and nutrient levels. Every system of roots looks a little different, you can use this information to determine what will grow best with the texture and structure you already have. We can call this planting smart because getting some of these plants in the ground will help improve the soil while you also reap the benefits of a nice garden!

Keep in mind, there are many types of gardens. We want to help you understand the soil in each of these garden types; whether it is working with what you’ve got or choosing the right type of soil mixture from your local gardening supply store. We’ve linked some helpful articles below that further elaborate on the importance of soil and the fascinating things that go on within this living substance.

Resources:
Why Is Soil So Important?
Living soil, healthy garden

Written by Maddie Malone