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How to Build Healthy Soil

Updated on February 4, 2010

test your soil

composting leaves

Build Soil

What is soil?

· Soil makes up the outermost layer of our planet.

· Topsoil is the most productive soil layer.

· Soil has varying amounts of organic matter (living and dead organisms), minerals, and nutrients.

· Five tons of topsoil spread over an acre is only as thick as a dime.

· Natural processes can take more than 500 years to form one inch of topsoil.

· Soil scientists have identified over 70,000 kinds of soil in the United States.

· Soil is formed from rocks and decaying plants and animals.

When I conduct a gardening workshop or give a talk, I sometimes start by asking the people who are there this questions; what is you first reaction when I say the word dandelion?

The participants’ answers help me to understand who is in the audience and how they approach gardening.

Another technique that I have used to engage the participants in the process and to get them thinking about what gardening really is to say. A good gardener grows soil. The gardener does not grow herbs or flowers or vegetable he or she grows soil and the soil produces the plants that the gardener wishes to grow.

If you have healthy soil you can grow healthy plants and healthy plants are much easier to car for than unhealthy plants; sick plants are a pest and disease magnet while healthy plants can withstand minor assaults, at least long enough for the gardener to notice and take corrective action, organically of course.

So feed the soil and the soil will feed you. The food that we eat, either directly or indirectly, draws the nutrients that we need from the soil. The same for the flowers that bring such beauty to our yards, they need the food that the soil and its millions of helpers provide.

The best way to grow healthy soil is to not disturb it in the first place, to follow the no-dig or no-till method that I have explained here.

However, you can still build soil through the addition of organic matter, such as, compost to your garden.

Compost is produced when organic matter, such as garden and lawn waste, is broken down by bacteria and fungi. When you add compost to the soil it improves soil structure; sandy soils will hold water better while clays will drain faster.

In addition, compost will create a biologically healthy soil as it provides food for earthworms, soil insects, and beneficial microorganisms. Think of them as your invisible gardening buddies.

If you need to buy compost then buy it from a reliable source. You can make your own compost with yard and kitchen wastes.

This will tell you what you can and cannot compost.


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  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    My condolences

  • profile image

    james 8 years ago

    New Brunswick aeh my uncle vinny from there just died

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick


  • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

    Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

    Great HUB Bob.

    regards Zsuzsy