Can a corpse take care of itself? Leave alone taking care of anything else?
Your probable answer is, ‘No.’
Then, why would you expect a dead garden soil to take care of your vegetables? How often do you perform a soil analysis? Have you ever taken the time to understand the obscure facts about the health of your soil? If you said No or hesitated to answer any of the three questions above,
then, this article is right for you.
In this post, I’ll be discussing why your garden soil is a living form and should never be allowed to die off. And as with all other living things, the garden soil need food, oxygen, and water to be alive and support other living things including you and me through the food we eat.
If you read this post religiously with devotion, I’m optimistic that you are going to discover the secret truth about your garden soil unknown to many.
Health aspects of the soil.
Well, I started off by saying or rather implying that the soil is a living form. I’m also suggesting that it’s these dynamic properties that make all the magic in our vegetable gardens. But let me explain this claim.
When we look at our garden soil, we are entirely ignorant of the life that exists within it. A life that supports millions of soil microorganisms that interact to create a healthy soil. The soil and plant root interaction is therefore based on the countless interaction of those soil microbes. This phenomenon means that the soil microbes are the lifeblood of any garden soil.
Now, for the microbes to perform optimally, the soil physical properties need to be favourable. This enabling environment must be;
- Minerals – comprising 45% of the soil
- Airspace – 25% of the total soil
- Water – 25% of the total soil
- Organic matter – 5%
A garden soil having such proportions is a conducive habitat that regulates the types and amounts of soil life upon which healthy plants can then grow and function. Furthermore, a proper soil ratio will ultimately lead to increased soil organic matter. The increased organic matter will increase pore space thus reducing soil compaction.
In summary, healthy soil has;
- A high organic matter contents that in turn feeds the microbes thus,
- A large number of soil microbes and organisms which in turn makes
- More nutrients available and regulate their uptake leading
- Improved nutrients uptake by the plants
- More plant materials (organic matter)
- Improved soil structure that becomes the best soil for a vegetable garden
Benefits of healthy soil in the garden
Increased vegetable production – The primary goal of studying and understanding the soil is to maximize yield potential. Albeit that’s the reason you are reading this article. Needless to say, improving the health of your soil will pay off with increased crop production. Thankfully, I have shown you the health aspects of your soil that need improvement. I’ll be discussing more on that later in this post.
Increased revenues – Conducting various soil analysis and taking corrective measures, as we’ve seen, will lead to increased yields. Increased yields mean, increased profits, improved nutrition, and improved health. Besides, a well-maintained soil won’t require any more chemical additives in the form of synthetic fertilizers, thus saves you money. Proper soil management is vital in ensuring that the cost of inputs is kept to an absolute minimum.
Natural resource protection – This one is exciting. Can you imagine yourself contributing to the universe in a big way through a small initiative of caring for your soil? I’m encouraged when I know that I can be of any help to conserving the environment. So, by working on your garden soil using recommended means that I will be discussing later on, is protecting our natural resources. What this post suggests is that we empower the soil to take care of its health and by so doing, we reduce leaching of fertilizers that would have otherwise polluted the groundwater. Moreover, less soil compaction ensures proper infiltration thus reducing flooding incidences as well as enhancing an appropriate hydrological cycle.
How to promote the health of your soil.
In theory and principle, it’s very easy to assume that, it’s enough to put a soil health management system in place, and the trick is done. Quite the contrary, the earth is continually threatened by many external conditions, some beyond our understanding and control. However, most threats are generally from the climate and human influence.
It’s imperative to come up with some universal rules that are empirical to tackling these threats. Focus on the ‘NPK’ of healthy soil to ensure you don’t miss a thing. The universal rules of the thumb are;
- N – Nutrients: Aim to maintain a balance of all macro and micro Nutrients in a suitable PH range.
- P – Physical Structure: Build a Physical state to enable life forms to breed, live and grow.
- K – Key Biology: Aim to manage the soil and plants in a way that supports the ongoing Key biology in the soil and on the plants.
My primary focus today is the key biology. Focusing on the fundamental biology is what is going to give your soil the resilience necessary to bounce back from the inevitable threats from human impacts. Let me outline a few approaches to promote soil health and fertility.
Garden soil testing – Spend a bit of time acquainting yourself with your soil. You can achieve this by sampling. Observe your soil and determine its color. In most cases, the color of good soil is dark brown while pale beige, greyish or bluish is not. Evaluate the structure by feeling with your fingers (the roughness or fineness). Break your soil further to see whether you can find some organisms such as earthworms. If you have them, my friend, that’s a good sign. Finally, you can smell your soil. If it smells pretty nice, that’s a sign that actinobacteria are present!
Soil Nutrient Testing – You need to conduct general soil analysis to track term changes in nutrients availability and take corrective measures. Be careful when using home kits to test your soil. Most of them are not accurate nor reliable. Laboratories are still the most preferred, even though a bit expensive. When collecting samples from your garden, get at least three or more from various locations within your garden. With technology, it’s now easier to do sampling by using automatic soil sampling equipment.
What if your results for all the tests above are negative? Don’t worry, it’s never too late to do the right things right. Follow the following Do’s and Don’ts.
- Don’t overuse pesticides, they kill your key biology
- Do introduce more diverse microbiology through quality compost and mulching.
- Do allow leaf litter to accumulate and feed the soil and open up any restrictions on air and water infiltration.
- Don’t contaminate your soil with toxins and heavy metals.
- Do provide the right amount of water in the soil on a regular basis.
- Do apply appropriate foods to the soil such as humic acid, worm leachate, and complex sugars e.g. molasses.
- Don’t over-rely on the use of chemical fertilizer applications. They do more harm than good in the long run. Remember to think about sustainability always. The quote below is one of my favorite and sums up all you need to know about your garden soil.
Restricting to just chemical applications and working the soil deeper and more often with larger machinery is old hat and very limiting. An exciting new world is gradually being revealed as scientists learn the intricacies of the complex world beneath our feet – Matthew Daniel & Gerhard Grasser authors of The Secret Life of Soil.
Your garden soil is probably one of the most valuable assets you have. If you want more success with your gardening business, this is one area that you should pay a lot of attention. You’ve just discovered why the soil is a living form, its benefits and how to promote it so that you can increase your production, increase profits and protect natural resources for future generation.
I have done my part, and now it’s your turn. Get out there and give some love to your soil. Remember it doesn’t matter whether you are growing indoor, doing container gardening or greenhouse farming, as long as your plants are growing on the soil, the principles learned in this post are the same.
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