Ways to Achieve an Organic Matter Rich Soil

Increasing the organic matter content of soil is one of the single-most effective means of improving soil quality. 

        

Leaves can be directly incorporated into the soil or composted.

Leaves can be directly incorporated into the soil or composted. Photo credit: Dan Machold Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

Double digging prior to organic matter incorporation.

Double digging prior to organic matter incorporation. Photo credit: laurenipsum Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Organic matter is derived from the breakdown of plant and animal residues by soil organisms such as earthworms, bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes. The richest form of organic matter is …

Solutions to Soil Problems: Soil Acidity


Soil pH

          Rhododendrons
  Rhododendrons are very tolerant of acid soils and grow best in soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5.
Photo credit: Uwe Fischer Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
 
 

Influence of soil pH on the relative availability of plant nutrients in a typical mineral soil.

  Influence of soil pH on the relative availability of plant nutrients in a typical mineral soil.
Image source: Chart of the Effects of Soil pH on Nutrient Availability
 

Surface application of lime to a field. Plants should be irrigated after lime application to ensure the foliage is free of the amendment.

  Surface application of lime to a field. Plants should be irrigated after lime application to ensure the foliage is free of the amendment.

Solutions to Soil Problems: High pH


        

Iron chlorosis, or iron deficiency in plants, causes yellowing of leaves while the veins remain green.

Iron chlorosis, or iron deficiency in plants, causes yellowing of leaves while the veins remain green. Photo source: Charlotte’s Place Landscape and Interior Decor Consultant

 

Sphagnum peat moss comes from formerly living sphagnum growing in bogs.

Sphagnum peat moss comes from formerly living sphagnum growing in bogs. Photo credit: lastonein Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Sphagnum peat moss comes from formerly living sphagnum growing in bogs.

Popular climbing clematis vines, grow well in high pH soils. Photo credit: Qsimple Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Soil pH

Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity (basicity) of a soil, and is reported as …

Soil Testing


         
 

Soil testing can identify factors limiting plant growth. Photo source: NRCS SD Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

 
 

A soil sampling probe as a simple, non-invasive, and accurate way to collect a soil sample.
Photo credit: John A. Kelley, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Soil Science Photo Stream Flickr CC BY 2.0

Soil testing may identify a lack of plant nutrients critical for optimum growth. For instance, nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium levels may be limiting plant growth, along with a lack of …

Soil Amendments and Practices of Unproven Value


What is a Soil Amendment?

A soil amendment or conditioner is something that is added to or mixed with existing soil in order to improve soil tilth. Amendments can increase soil moisture, nutrient holding capacity, aeration, and water infiltration, among others. They can be either organic or inorganic materials. Organic matter is the most important amendment that can be added to soil and is extremely beneficial for soil health.

Unproven Soil Amendments and Practices

Unfortunately, some soil amendments, …

Practices to Improve Drainage


         

Water lilies are a commonly-grown hydrophyte in backyard ponds. Source: Wikipedia CC Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

 

Honey locust is tolerant of poorly-drained soils. Photo credit: geneva_wirth Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Adequate soil drainage is critical for good plant growth. Some plants such as hydrophytes, or water-loving plants, are physiologically adapted to thrive in saturated Hydrophytes have extensive air channels that allow gases to move freely through the plant. Most garden and landscape plants do not fit into this category.

Poor soil drainage …

Beneficial Soil Invertebrates


         
 

Earthworms are the most important of the soil decomposers and greatly improve soil aggregation. Image credit:pfly Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

 
 

Ladybird beetles, or ladybugs, attack a garden slug. Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson Flickr CC BY 2.0

A soil invertebrate is an invertebrate that spends all or much of its life in the soil. Many soil invertebrates improve the health of the soil and therefore plants; however, some soil invertebrates may be detrimental. Harmful fungi and bacteria may feed on roots …

Soil Preparation for Flower Beds


         
 

Proper soil care will reward the gardener with years of beautiful flowers. Source: YouTube – Southwest Yard and Garden – How to Prepare a Flower Bed for Spring Part I

Good soil preparation for flower beds helps create and maintain a healthy garden and can also reduce water requirements.

Things to keep in mind include:

Different Types of Compost


        
 

Example of ready to use compost. Photo credit: wisemandarine Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Many different types of compost can be used in the landscape to improve soil. According to the US Composting Council most compost is used for trees and shrubs, perennial beds, vegetable gardens, and lawns.

Composting is a naturally occurring process of decomposition found in nature. Home composting speeds up this process.

Compost can be made from almost any organic material. These materials will eventually break down into …

Reducing Soil Compaction to Improve Drainage

Soil compaction is any process that compresses soil particles and reduces pore or air space between them. This process reduces or eliminates water infiltration and can cause runoff and erosion.

Plant roots may have a harder time penetrating the soil and may not get enough oxygen and nutrients. Soil compaction occurs in agricultural as well as urban landscapes.

Ways to Reduce Compaction

  • Avoid tilling wet soil
  • Keep construction equipment off of soils around tree roots
  • Avoid overworking the soil

Ways