Humans have completely changed the landscapes, for better or worse. It is estimated that we are losing 1% of topsoil each year. Agriculture and development are big contributors to soil erosion.
It is up to us to share the responsibility to ensure that our healthy soils are full of life. Good soil takes care of our plants, our landscaping, and lessens the damage caused by severe weather. Become a better gardener or farmer by taking care of your soil and creating an environment of prosperity.
These five main elements of soil composition must be understood if you want a healthy foundation for your plants.
Water in soil is not only important for plants, but it is also a necessary component to keep it mineral-rich. Even soil that doesn’t contain any plants should stay moist. Topsoil can trap moisture for long periods of time, depending on humidity levels.
Maintaining a balanced moisture level in your soil is important. Too much watering will waterlog the soil, putting roots at risk for rot. Additives like Perlite can help with moisture retention, so you don’t need to water as frequently. In addition to regular watering, layering plants for landscaping can reduce the amount of evaporation from the sun.
Sturdy plants can absorb strong winds, which can also increase evaporation rates. A good mix of organic compost to strengthen soil density and larger plants/trees to protect from above will result in healthier soil.
When it comes to the regulation of dampness in the dirt minerals and nutrients are important. The concentration of minerals and nutrients in the dirt will determine the density and stability of roots. Any dirt with a large mix of clay will erode slowly and hold water well.
On the other hand, if your soil has larger minerals, like sand, water will drain off faster. This is ideal for wetter climates, but not for houseplants or areas with long dry months. Mixing a variety of minerals is ideal for retaining water and avoiding waterlogging issues.
Plants in their native habits thrive because they adapt to the soil that originated from the underlying rocks and minerals. These are called parent materials. Recreating the proper mixture of parent materials can make you a more successful gardener or farmer.
Healthy soil depends on three different types of gas: oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. Soil that is too compact will not have adequate levels of these gases. This leaves little room for most plants to thrive, outside of invasive weeds.
Aerating soil helps yield better crops and reduces the amount of maintenance needed for landscaping. Plus, soil that has good aeration will also have superior drainage than soil that isn’t aerated. This is why sand is often used for runoff and irrigation lines.
There needs to be a proper level of oxygen in the soil for microorganisms to thrive (more on this below). An imbalance of the gases in the soil could lead to higher levels of sulfur dioxide, which will poison plants at high levels. There is always a natural ebb and flow of gas levels, thanks to mass flow and diffusion.
This occurs when moisture enters and exits the soil. When it enters during rainfall, gases are displaced and released. When moisture exits through evaporation, gases will move into the soil.
Diffusion of gases happens independently of moisture levels. It is determined by the concentration of gases outside the roots in contrast to those inside. When there is a greater presence of a gas outside, it will diffuse into the roots to even out. This is important for the transport of phosphorus and potassium, too.
Composting is what sets dirt apart from healthy soil. Healthy soils are full of rich, organic materials. You need a healthy mix of decaying food for microorganisms to eat. This can be old produce, leftovers, or other plant clippings.
Organic compost also helps retain moisture, acting as a sponge that slowly releases moisture. Farmers know the value of composting, which is why they dedicate part of their crops towards non-harvesting. They will simply cut a portion down and leave them to break down into the soil.
Compost and mulching are two different sides of the same coin. Mulch is the highly-fibrous organic material that will allow the proper environment for composting to take place. Mulch can be wood chips, textiles, bark, gravel, plastic, or rubber.
The only way to deliver a steady supply of nutrients and minerals to soils is with a high concentration of microorganisms. An entire ecosystem of life can be found beneath the surface, filled with bacteria, fungi, insects, and worms. Each one contributes to the various stages of breaking down organic matter.
Their presence alone in the soil also provides natural aeration. Crops that over-fertilize and rely heavily on pesticides have to constantly aerate manually. Organic crops thrive on a diverse ecosystem of insects and microorganisms that prevent diseases from spreading.
Farming has to take a heavy-handed approach when it contradicts the natural biome of their surroundings. There are more antagonists present when growing plants non-native to the region.
Achieving a balance for your soil can be difficult when starting out. You need to know what is lacking or what is too present. Healthy soils are full of life, but it is your job to create the conditions where life will thrive.
Luckily, you can find everything you need right here in our shop. Start by browsing our soil mixes to supplement or replace your unhealthy soil. You can get a custom quote for our products based on your needs and budget.
If you struggle to keep plants very long before needing replacements, start from the ground and work your way back up.