Keep Your Soil Healthy
Once you’ve got healthy soil, keeping it that way is mostly about maintaining a desirable environment for the many creatures that live there. Here are some of the ways to keep your soil healthy.
Allow leaves to decompose in the garden. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Add organic material
• Provides a slow and steady supply of plant nutrients
• Improves soil structure - Promotes movement of air and water, and a better home for plant roots and soil organisms
• Allow leaves and other plant materials to decompose in the garden.
• Leave grass clippings on the lawn.
• Use compost as a mulch.
• Keep plants growing throughout the year - plant roots contribute carbon to soil.
Protect soil by keeping it covered with plants and mulch. Photo, Arnaldo Aldana, Unsplash
Maximize soil cover
• Moderates soil temperature and conserves moisture.
• Provides food and habitat for fungi, bacteria, and arthropods, and prevents the destruction of microbial habitat by erosion.
• Keep soil covered by plants, their residue or mulch
• Plant cover crops
• Use organic mulch
• Leave plant residue in place
• Soil disturbance from physical, chemical, or biological activities can create a hostile environment for organisms to live.
• Protect against water ponding or erosion
• Avoid tilling or turning soil
• Add organic materials the way nature does - by laying them on the surface • Tilling may be necessary if you’ve got sticky clay or compacted soil. A one-time mixing in of organic matter can aid in creating more workable soil
• A wide mixture of plants supports the diversity of soil microorganisms in the soil.
• Include different plant types (perennial, annual, woody, grassy, broadleaf, legume, etc.) and plants with different root structures (tap, fibrous, etc.).
• Rotate crops to reduce potential for disease-causing organisms.
Minimize the use of chemicals
• Fertilizers and pesticides may be toxic to microorganisms in the soil. Some pesticides break down quickly while others may persist for long periods.
• Add organic compost rather than synthetic fertilizer.
• Choose disease-resistant plant varieties and plants that will grow well in your site.
• Manage pests by providing habitat for natural enemies.
• Use an integrated pest management approach to help reduce the use of pesticides.