lush lawn and garden is a part of many homeowners' dream home. A lawn that emanates green and a garden that's home to succulent vegetables is desirable to homeowners across the country.
Of course, such lawns and gardens take time and effort, and a host of factors will determine if a lawn and garden is something homeowners should be proud or ashamed of. One such factor is soil health. Healthy soil helps deliver food and water to plants, allowing them to thrive and add aesthetic appeal to homes. To maintain healthy soil, homeowners should consider the following tips.
* Get the soil tested. When addressing soil health, it's best to first get the soil tested. A soil test will show which type of soil you have as well as its makeup and structure, and just how good or bad it currently is. Such tests can also reveal if the soil is missing any essential nutrients. Some soil tests can be conducted by novice green-thumbers, while others are best left to the local agricultural bureau. These tests are a good investment, as they will remove the guesswork from fertilizing. Without a soil test, many homeowners end up overdoing it when fertilizing, which can prove a costly mistake. Take a soil sample a few months before you plan to plant or landscape to give yourself enough time to apply the test's recommendations to your lawn and garden.
* Avoid wet soil. When soil is wet, don't walk or drive over it and keep the kids out of the yard. When wet soil is walked on or driven over, the soil gets packed down, pushing out air and making it more difficult and sometimes impossible for water to pass through the soil. That makes it hard for roots to grow. Gardeners who plan to plant this gardening season should wait for the soil to dry before planting.
* Use well-drained soil. Well-drained soil will dry fast and enable oxygen to reach the root zone, helping build stronger roots as a result. Plants with strong roots are more likely to survive severe weather.
* Use compost. Compost can prove very beneficial to soil health. Organic compost is typically loaded with nutrients that, upon maturity, feed the soil and promote soil health. Biodegradable items like grass clippings, leaves and even excess food like apple cores can strengthen the compost. Even worms, which break down compost quickly and add nutrients, can be a valuable addition to organic compost.
* Don't bash bacteria. Bacteria is often seen as a formidable foe, but some bacteria can actually promote healthy soil. Bacteria decompose plant matter, releasing the nutritive value into the soil, and can also break down chemical pesticides. So while bacteria is bad more often than it's beneficial, some bacteria are quite useful, particularly when it comes to healthy soil.
* Don't be scared off by slime. Like bacteria, slime has a bad reputation. However, veteran gardeners understand that reputation isn't warranted. Slime mold is ugly, and many new gardeners see it and instantly assume it's bad for their garden. However, slime molds are good for the soil, helping break down dead wood and leaves. They might not add aesthetic appeal, but slime molds do serve a practical and important purpose in maintaining healthy soil.
* Pests can be an ally to healthy soil. Some garden pests like mites, millipedes and centipedes are incorrectly assumed to be enemies of healthy soil. In fact, such pests can vastly improve soil health. Mites consume dead leaves and additional plant matter, enabling bacteria to more effectively release nutrients into the soil. Millipedes and centipedes are also beneficial to soil, as their droppings improve both the soil's texture and fertility.