Soil Health

Here are some elements to consider in establishing soil health:

1. Compost

All soils will profit from the use of compost. Compost helps soils recover from extreme conditions. Sandy soils have rapid drainage and compost can help by adding more volume with humus and organic matter and increase the soil’s water holding capacity. Fine soils (clay, clay-loam) will benefit, because compost will increase porosity by adding humus and organic matter.

2. Plant Nutrients

It’s important for long-term soil management to know what the soil fertility is in your soil. Let’s keep it simple. All you have to do is focus on the three main macronutrients or NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium), and then let your compost provide the numerous and complex micronutrients. Following this simple approach will provide you with a very fertile soil.

3. Organic Fertilizers

Use only organic fertilizers to increase soil fertility and plant nutrients instead of chemical or petroleum based fertilizers.

4. Soil pH

Is the soil pH within the limits of the crops being grown? Understanding pH and its effects on your plants will help in maintaining healthy soil. It’s a good idea to purchase a pH tester and test your garden soil periodically. Another benefit of compost is that it helps modify and stabilize the pH in your soil.

5. Cultivation

Is the soil being dug and cultivated properly? Rototilling or mechanical tilling tends to compact the soil 6 to 8 inches (15.5 - 20 cm) below the surface. Besides stressing the root system of your crops, compacted soils have a detrimental effect on the soil life.

6. Water

How are you watering the crops? Too much? Too little?

7. Weeds

Are you weeding effectively? Weeds aren’t bad. Weeds are just "plants out of place." Many weeds can have a beneficial effect on your soil if used as a cover crop and tilled in or used in your compost, but unfortunately, they can decrease soil fertility by competing with the surrounding food crops for nutrients and water. Manage weeds, not eradicate them.

8. Cover Crops

Are you putting back what you are taking out? Cover Crops (also known as green manure) are grown solely to be tilled into the soil after a desired growth stage or at the end of a particular season. Cover crops replenish nutrients in the soil by giving back much more than they take out during growth thereby improving the soil health.