Healthy soil is the foundation for a successful garden, so don’t treat yours like dirt. Here are five basic things you can do today–well ahead of spring–that will help you achieve success in both your vegetable gardens and ornamental beds.
1. Drainage and Aeration: Especially in the DFW area where soils tend to be heavy clay, good drainage and air are crucial. Water should penetrate the soil, not sit on top or worse, run off completely. You’re aiming for soil that has a soft, friable consistency that will retain moisture content like a wrung-out kitchen sponge, without being soggy and waterlogged. A good amendment to improve both is Expanded Shale, a gravel-like product that increases porosity and helps mitigate moisture loss and retention.
2. Organic Matter: We recommend adding organic compost throughout the season, both for amending new beds and for topdressing in existing beds, turf areas and container plantings. Finely chopped (mowed once or twice) leaves make a great topdress amendment, too–leave fallen organic matter wherever you can to break down naturally. Don’t use power blowers on your soil; it strips the topsoil away and robs it of organic matter on the surface.
Worm castings are unique in that earthworms naturally occurring in the soil break down organic matter and nutrients and pass these on to plants. They’ve been called ‘the intestines’ of healthy soil–so their castings are a great source of organic matter.
3. Sugars and vital biostimulants: healthy soil is teeming with microscopic life–beneficial bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms–that make all the magic happen in our nutrient cycle. Give them a boost with horticultural molasses and products like Medina Soil Activator, and you’ll likely be amazed at the results.
4. Trace Minerals: Greensand is mined from deposits of minerals that were originally part of the ocean floor. It generally contains about 3% total potash, along with iron, magnesium, silica and as many as 30 other trace minerals. An added benefit is that it’s helpful in loosening clay soils, too, but the real benefit is the additional nutrients for plants, especially roses and tomatoes.
5. Mulch: It may sound basic, but a blanket of organic mulch helps insulate the soil (and the plant roots within it) and mitigate moisture loss and erosion. It also helps to add additional organic matter as it breaks down, and further suppresses weeds. What could be better? Mulch deeply to at least 2″ and apply 3-4 times per year and after all new plantings.
This can be your go-to checklist for getting your garden soils ready for spring. We have a number of handouts and alternatives for soil care, too; please stop in and see us soon and let us show you your options. Find events and classes on composting, healthy soils and other topics at our events page here. Happy gardening!