How can you improve the soil in your planting containers, lawn or garden? While different planting conditions require different types of dirt, there are some basic elements that come together to make any kind of soil more healthy and viable. This basic “recipe” includes common elements that result in excellent soil for a variety of different applications, and you can use it for all but the sandiest landscapes in Southern California.
Organic fertilizers such as finished compost and animal manure are some of the most basic building blocks associated with good soil, and if you do nothing else, adding these ingredients will certainly improve overall soil health. Their biggest asset is nitrogen, which is an essential nutrient for plant growth of all kinds. Better yet, these fertilizers are all natural, and they’re suitable for use in food gardens and grass lawns alike.
Compost and manure mix in easily with loose, unplanted soil, and they provide quick nutrition to freshly dug earth of questionable quality. If you’re adding these ingredients to an already planted lawn or landscape, you can simply use a shovel and a garden rake to spread the compost or manure over the surface of the ground without mixing it in. The nutrients will soak into the soil and boost its quality.
Bring In Some Creepy-crawly Friends
While you generally want to kill harmful pests in your soil, not all insects and bacteria are bad. Some are actually essential to soil health. Earthworms and nematodes may not be the most attractive creatures on the block, but when it comes to soil, they’re good friends to have on your side.
Earthworms are a common sign of good earth, and that’s because the worms themselves help make the soil healthy. As they eat and digest roots, fallen plant matter and other detritus, earthworms excrete nutrient-rich castings that make soil richer and more hospitable to plants. Worm castings also contain beneficial microbial organisms that improve your soil on a molecular level.
Nematodes can also contribute greatly to your overall soil and plant health. Like earthworms, nematodes excrete beneficial material into the soil, but they also eat insect eggs and larvae that can develop into plant-destroying pests. Nematodes and earthworms are both typically available for purchase at garden centers, making them an easy solution to soil problems.
Get Some Fresh Air
Aeration can also be important for making good soil. Nutrients, water and oxygen often have a hard time penetrating down through the topmost layers of soil, which can make your overall soil quality weaker. Combining aeration with the other techniques listed above provides a multi-front plan of attack to make your soil healthier.