Good Soil: The Real Dirt

No matter what you grow, vegetables or flowers, in a spacious garden or a pot on a balcony, the first thing you need is good soil. It took me years to understand this, and now “Soil First” is my gardening mantra.

The single most important thing you can do for your soil is increase its content of organic matter. Spread a layer of compost or shredded leaves over your soil and dig it in very lightly once the soil has warmed up and dried out a bit. All too often, gardeners unthinkingly harm soil structure by tilling excessively or working soils that are too wet.

Later, when you’ve planted the bed, add more compost, leaves or straw to mulch the soil. This conserves water and keeps the rains from leaching the nutrients away.  To learn more about mulches, click here. Or plant a cover crop to create mulch and add nutrients to the soil.

Before planting and before adding fertilizer, find out more about your soil. Does it have the right balance of nutrients for what you want to grow? What is the pH? The easiest way to learn this is through a simple soil test. That way you’ll know whether fertilizer is needed and if so, what fertilizer is best. Once you know more about your soil, you can amend it as needed with more compost and organic fertilizers.

Pay attention to your soil before you plant, and you’ll have much better results than trying to fix problems later. To read more about making good soil, click here.