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The Importance of Good Soil

Good soil is ninety percent of the secret to a successful garden. Without it, you will be fighting a losing battle no matter how diligent you are with watering, weed control, ensuring proper sunlight, and pest control.

The quality of a soil is usually determined by examining its fertility and texture. A soil’s fertility is determined by a combination of essential nutrients and a pH that makes these nutrients available to the plants. The basic nutrients required by plants are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Nitrogen is responsible for the healthy growth of the plant’s leaf and stem, phosphorous is important for the root growth of the plant, and potassium is required for the overall health of the plant, keeping the plant growing and boosting its immune system. In addition to these three nutrients, plants also require trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, molybdenum, and zinc in order to be healthy. The pH of a soil tells us its acidity or alkalinity level and is measured on a scale between 1.0 and 14.0. A pH level of 7.0 is considered neutral. Soil with a pH higher than 7.0 is considered acidic and soil with a pH higher than 7.0 is considered to be alkaline.

A soil’s texture, on the other hand, refers to its particle content, the size of particles, and how cohesive they are. Sandy soils have very large particles, for example, whereas soils with a lot of clay have very small particles. Both soil with a lot of sand and soil with a lot of clay can be problematic. Sandy soil permits air, roots, and water to move too freely while soil with a lot of clay does not offer enough room for air, roots, or water.

There are a number of steps you can take to bring your soil into the best shape possible for a garden and there are definitely things you should avoid doing so as not to harm the quality of your gardening soil. Enriching your soil with fertilizer and organic material is one of the best ways to make sure your garden will be healthy. Soil enriched with fertilizer and organic materials stimulates plant root systems to go down deep and to spread out, and the resulting plants are stronger, sturdier, and better able to withstand disease, heat and drought. Manure is a great fertilizer as long as it is aged enough and doesn’t contain too much salt or weeds. Organic material can consist of anything from kitchen scraps such as eggshells, potato peels, and coffee grinds, to plant residues such as grass cuttings, pine needles and leaves to even earthworms!

When you are improving and enriching your soil, be sure not to mix a different type of soil with your existing soil. For example, you wouldn’t want to mix a sandy soil with a clay soil – this would produce disastrous results. Also, when adding organic material, make sure you don’t use plant residue that consists of diseased plants or organic material that has meat scraps. Finally, sewage sludge can be used but it may contain high levels of lead and cadmium so it is best to use this material only on plants that you are not intending to ingest.

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