Soil Facts

The healthier your soil, the healthier your plants
It’s that simple. Consider your own diet. If you are malnourished, you get sick. The same goes for your plants – they need food to survive. Plants feed off the nutrients in your soil. Except for sunlight, plants draw all their water and food from the soil.

A stressed plant wilts – this may be from too much water, too little water, not enough air or a nutrient deficiency. To know why your plant is wilting, you need to understand your soil.

  • Fertiliser is a requirement of most gardens

Gardening 101 shows you how to make your own slow release fertiliser (fancy way of saying compost), to get the most out of your soil and garden. You can improve productivity and plant health by using scraps from your garden and kitchen.

In order for plants to obtain the nutrients, water and air they need, you need to have good soil structure. The typical Australian garden has soil that is too compacted. This means there’s not enough air and water in the soil for the plants. Just like you and me, without air and water, plants will die. You can easily tell if your soil is too compacted by digging a small hole. If the soil is solid, and doesn’t crumble, it is compacted and you need to aerate.

  • Many gardening books lightly brush over the subject of your soil

Add organic matter and some gypsum if you have clay.’ When reading most gardening books, soil is something of an afterthought, and often discussed in far less detail than the plants themselves. I personally disagree with this sentiment – the soil is far too important! Soil is what supports, feeds and waters your plants. It’s not OK to choose your favourite plants for your garden and forget to prepare the right soil. Azaleas, for example, need a very rich and slightly acidic topsoil. Other plants prefer alkaline soil.

Gardening 101 lists the most common plants and vegetables in Australian gardens, with recommendations for an ideal soil.

  • Many people think that adding gypsum will improve their soil

But what most people don’t know is that gypsum won’t work on all soil types. Only dispersive clays will respond to gypsum. Gardening 101 has instructions on how to test if gypsum will actually benefit your garden. If you’re really eager to test now – buy the book! 🙂 Or, you can google the Emerson Aggregate Test for instructions.

ALSO SEE: What Type of Soil do You Have?

  • Why buy topsoil when you can fix your existing soil?

Why pay for soil when you can fix the soil you already have. Unfortunately, many ‘landscape’ soils from soil yards are not great quality. They are often contaminated with weed seeds, can be highly saline, and I’ve even seen soil containing plastic and nails. Improving the soil already in your yard is often the better, cheaper approach to building a garden.

Most of the time you can significantly improve your soil by adding the right compost, mulch, and having good soil structure. The book contains a variety of different compost “recipes” to help add nutrients you may be missing, and use left overs and scraps from your kitchen and garden.

  • Compost is a fantastic fertiliser and food for soil microbes

Many households have food waste – whether left over from dinner, or left too long in the fridge. Rather than put it in the wheelie bin, why not put those nutrients into your garden? The soil microbes need organic matter and nutrients to keep your soil healthy, and composted food waste is a cheap way to feed the soil ecosystem. Soil is a living, breathing system that needs food to support healthy plants.

Soil microbes are not chivalrous and will take nutrients away from your plants if they are hungry. Adding compost will feed the microbes and help build up a store of nutrients for your garden.

Gardening 101 helps you visually identify what nutrients your soil is lacking and recommends composts to improve it. The compost recipes will improve your soil fertility, and use easily accessible products like egg shells, animal manure, kitchen scraps and hay.

  • Worm farms, or vermiculture, are another great way create your own fertiliser

Despite having over 350 species of earthworm in Australia, only 3 types are commonly bred for worm farms (tiger, red and blues). This is because regular garden worms won’t survive in a worm farm. Learn what bedding materials worm farm worms like, what to feed them and how to protect your worms from predators.

Adding worm compost to your garden will help increase the biological diversity of your soil. A rich, healthy, organic soil will have a balance of microbes, bacteria, fungi and garden dwelling worms. Yes – the worms in your worm farm can help stimulate the population of the worms in your garden.

  • The pH of your soil is crucial

Each plant has a preferred soil pH range. Outside of this range, the plants struggle. If the pH is too low, nutrients like Nitrogen and Phosphorus become unavailable to your plants, and unwanted metals like Aluminium are present in toxic amounts. Gardening 101 shows you how to test the pH of your soil, how to change the pH to be optimal, and the preferred soil pH of common garden plants.

  • Your soil is your best water tank

The better your soil is, the more water it will hold. For example, a deep, well structured loamy soil will hold more than double the water of a shallow sandy soil. This means you need to water your garden less, saving time, water and money. A deep, well structured soil is very important over summer, as your plants will have access to more water (your soil water tank).

  • People see an unhealthy plant an instinctively add more water

In about half of wilting plant cases – the problem is actually too much water. Far more plants die from over-watering than under-watering. Simply sticking your finger in the soil will tell you if you need to add water, or if your plant is wilting for another reason.

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