Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Soil 101

Good soil is the secret to any great garden. It is really simple to build a rich, fertile soil that will produce lush vegetables and herbs or beautiful flowers.

The secret to good soil is organic matter. It releases nutrients to plant roots and also helps make spaces in soil, called pores, that hold the water and air that roots need to grow. The following steps will build great garden soil:

1. Add organic matter You simply can't add too much organic matter. Use homemade or purchased compost, leaf mold, or other organic matter. Either dig into the soil before planting or spread it on the surface.

2. Keeping adding it You need to replenish all the time. Mulching and rebarking beds is a great way to add organic matter on beds every year.

3. Don't walk on beds Walking on cultivated soil flattens soil pores, causing compacted soil, which hampers root growth. Compressed soil also doesn't drain as well. Reach in to tend plants or use stepping stones.

4. Keep soil covered Maintain a layer of compost, chopped leaves, shredded bark, and/or straw on the soil to keep it cool and protect it from wind and rain.

5. Consider testing To learn more about your soil, give a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension Service or buy a do-it-yourself soil test kit.

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