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.

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 humus, which is what remains after extensive decomposition of organic matter.

Organic matter supplies plant nutrients to the soil, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. It improves soil structure and aeration, increases …

Solutions to Soil Problems: Soil Acidity

Soil pH

Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity (basicity) of a soil, and is reported as a value between 0 and 14. A soil test for pH measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in the soil solution.

A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. A pH value below 7.0 indicates that the soil is acidic, with lower values representing increasing acidity. A pH value above 7.0 indicates that the soil is alkaline (basic), with higher values …

Solutions to Soil Problems: High pH

Soil pH

Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity (basicity) of a soil, and is reported as a value between 0 and 14. A soil test for pH measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in the soil solution.

A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. A pH value below 7.0 indicates that the soil is acidic, with lower values representing increasing acidity. A pH value above 7.0 indicates that the soil is alkaline (basic), with higher values …

Soil Testing

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 other plant macronutrients (calcium, magnesium, and sulfur) and micronutrients (chloride, iron, boron, manganese, zinc, copper, molybdenum, and nickel).

Soil tests can also determine organic matter, pH, soluble salts, available nutrients, element toxicities, soil texture, and numerous other properties.

Soil testing may also identify limiting factors on a site such as …

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

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 soils. 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 will result in water-logged, saturated soils, which greatly affects plant growth. Saturated soils reduce oxygen-availability to roots, and decrease the plant’s ability to take up water through …

Beneficial Soil Invertebrates

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 and leaves of live plants.

Some nematodes may carry pathogens or parasitize plants and may destroy good soil bacteria. Remedial measures may be taken to promote beneficial organisms, thereby inhibiting the growth of destructive soil organisms.…

Soil Preparation for Flower Beds

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:

  • Conduct a soil test to determine existing soil texture, nutrients, and pH
  • Tilling wet soil can destroy soil structure
  • Add organic matter to improve soil drainage and texture
  • Prepare planting beds in late summer or fall to avoid wet soil
  • Weed treatment and sod removal can be done in the fall without affecting flower beds

Different Types of Compost

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 a stable product that provides nutrients, increases soil moisture holding capacity, regulates soil …

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