Part 2 – How to Cultivate Healthy Soil in Your Landscape

June 19, 2015

Happy soil, happy life.

Hey, remember this post about the importance of healthy soil in your garden? Well now I’m going to tell you how to cultivate that soil. Remember: bad things happen when you treat soil like dirt. If we work alongside Mother Nature to create a balanced ecosystem in the soil of our gardens, the plants will be happier, and you’ll be happier as you spend less time maintaining your garden and more time enjoying it.

Sublime Garden Design

Credit: Sublime Garden Design

Amend Beds with Compost – As I mentioned in Part 1, the healthy layer of topsoil usually gets destroyed when a house is built. Here’s where compost comes in handy. Plants crave it like a pregnant woman craves pickles and ice cream, but in this case it’s actually healthy for the plants since it contains essential nutrients and organic material. If you are planting a new garden bed, mix the compost 6-10” deep into the soil before you put in the plants. We recommend about 1 cubic yard of compost per 150 square feet of bed. If you already have garden beds planted, simply spread a layer of compost on the surface of the bed before mulching. Either way, your plants will thank you for it. If you consider yourself the homesteading type, you can cultivate your own compost.

Apply Mulch Annually – A top layer of mulch in your garden beds prevents moisture from quickly evaporating and helps regulate the temperature of the soil. There are many different types of mulch, but one of our favorites is composted black bark, as seen in the photo above and below. This dark black mulch adds essential nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. Spread it throughout your garden bed in the spring, and make sure it’s about 2-3” thick.

Sublime Garden Design

Sand set Montana flagstone patio. Snohomish, WA – Sublime Garden Design

Organic Fertilizer Applications – An application of organic fertilizer in the spring, and again later in the growing season, adds necessary nutrients to your garden. While all plants love it, fertilizer is especially necessary for gardens that cycle nutrients quickly, such as vegetable gardens, lawns, and flowering annuals. Organic fertilizers feed microorganisms in the soil that turn the fertilizer into soluble nutrients for the plants, while simultaneously improving the soil structure over time. If you’re headed to your local gardening store, one of our favorite organic fertilizers is Dr. Earth. Make sure to read labels as each bag of fertilizer you pick up will have its own set of instructions and suggested uses. Fertilizers meant for fruit production are different than fertilizers meant for root stimulation.

If you pick up a fertilizer that doesn’t have “organic” on it, we advise your to put it back down. Synthetic fertilizers should be avoided. After an application, plants will quickly perk up, but your beloved hostas might as well be wearing a fake smile. Once they burn through the nutrients, they’ll need another application to keep them looking healthy, meaning more maintenance for you. Additionally, if you accidentally apply too much, the chemicals may burn the root systems and harm the plants.

In Your Lawn – Just like the perennials and shrubs in your garden, your lawn also becomes healthier when it is rooted in healthy soil. One way to improve your lawn’s soil is to topdress it with compost. Simply spread about ¼” to ½” of compost over your lawn and lightly work it into the base of your lawn with the back of a rake.

mulch mowing

Credit: lawneq.com

Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to deal with grass clippings after you mowed the lawn? Another way to improve your lawn’s soil is mulch-mowing, which involves cutting the top 1/3 of your grass with a mulch-mower or using a mulch-mower attachment. As you mow, a mulch-mower cuts up the blades of grass very finely and spits them back out onto the lawn. Once all the water in the cut grass evaporates, the leftover organic material decomposes and adds nutrients back into the soil.

Time to get your hands dirty, folks! Happy gardening!

~Deanna

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