Soil Is The Answer - 6 Tips To Improve Your Garden's Health

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“To forget how to dig the earth and tend to the soil is to forget ourselves.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

Soil is always the answer! The healthier your soil the more productive your plants will be. Ideally you want the soil in your garden to be teeming with life… earthworms a plenty breaking down organic matter as well as beneficial bacteria and fungi.

Buying the perfect soil from your local garden centre can be hard, as it might not contain the life we were talking about above (the worms, slaters, micro-organisms etc).  Or if you have a patch of dirt in your back yard that you want to convert, it may just need a little attention. So for the love of your plants, it is your responsibility to be the master of your garden, and create and nurture life (it will be like your baby).

Here are our top 6 tips for improving the health of your soil and in turn the health of your garden.

1.            Know Your Soil – The ideal type of soil is a loamy soil; soil made up of sand, clay, silt and organic matter. A soil which is able to retain nutrition as well as drain water. It is easy to get an idea of the type of soil you are working with by picking up a little wet and dry, and rubbing it between your fingers. If it feels gritty, it is more on the sandy side of things, which means it may be lacking nutrition as it will have trouble retaining it.  If the soil feels slippery or sticks together when wet, then you have a high amount of clay which means it will be very dense, won’t drain well, and roots will have a hard time making their way around.  Lastly if the soil feels silky, it is silty and it is another type of soil that doesn't drain well due to its density.

2.            pH – To further get to know your soil up close and personal is to check it’s pH level (whether your soil is on the acidic or alkaline side of things).  Not only is it a great thing to do, but pulling out the pH test kit makes you feel all sciencey and smart. Knowing the pH gives you an indication of how well a plant can absorb nutrients and the activity of micro-organisms. Ideal pH range for soil is between 6.5-6.8.

3.            Compost –  We like to say compost is the answer to everything! It adds nutrients, lowers the pH, supports healthy ecosystems, and promotes good soil structure (remedy for sandy, silty or clay soils). What can’t it do?!  Equally important to adding compost to your garden is you can make it at home for free! Transform your kitchen/garden waste, while making a valuable resource. We will be covering how you can start composting in our blog post next week.

4.            Fertilisers – In the event you don’t have a high volume of compost readily available, you can look to using some organic fertilisers to further increase the nutrient value of the soil. Some of these include chicken/horse/cow manure, seaweed extract, blood and bone, and one of our personal favourites, worm castings or worm wee.  A note about manures; it is best to use aged manure to guard against any nasties still lingering about. Through a growing season we will then use worm wee or seaweed extract every few weeks to keep the plants and soil fed and happy.

5.            Mulch – There are quite a few advantages to mulching your garden. Firstly is it protects the soil and the happy little critters in your soil from the harsh sun. It stops the soil from drying out and getting to hot. It also prevents weeds from becoming competition if weeds aren't your thing. Lastly the mulch will slowly break down further adding to the organic matter.  Some organic mulch options would include sugar cane mulch, lucerne and pea straw.

6.            Revitalise – It is quite common for a new garden to do great in the first year as you have lovingly prepared your garden beds, and it is full of nutrients, and organic matter.  But you will find after having a couple of crops in the garden bed things might not thrive as much. Our last top tip is to revitalise your garden bed.  This can be done by planting out a ‘green manure’ crop (legumes are great for this as they fix nitrogen to the soil) where you will chop the crop down once it is mature and slightly dig it into the soil and leave to decompose. Alternatively, you would look to adding more compost and organic matter to build things up again.  

Here's to good soil and good health.

Happy Gardening.