WHAT IS HEALTHY SOIL?

4 min read

WHAT IS HEALTHY SOIL?

Let’s start right away with a statement. Soil is the most important part of your garden, but gets the least attention. Totally unjustified, because without a healthy soil there is no yield of vegetables, herbs and cheerfully growing ornamental plants. It also explains the definition of healthy soil.

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Healthy soil is the soil layer in your garden, in which the interplay of all kinds of underground organisms creates a constant living and growing environment for all plant and animal life.

HOW DO YOU GET HEALTHY SOIL?

  1. Work on an ideal starting position
    It is not so long ago that the construction of a new ornamental garden started with planting potatoes in the first year. It was intended to preserve the peace, the often applied and deeply excavated soil (to break through disturbing layers) is given a season to settle back to its original cohesion. The weeds were also removed for a year and the potatoes and winter frost caused the structure to crack. We no longer have the patience of yesteryear and perhaps we don’t have to. Zooming in on the status of the soil first and seeing what can be improved lays the foundation for future garden happiness. Take a good look at the water permeability (disturbing layers), you can’t do anything about that at a later stage. It is not necessary to remove (drain off) your soil type, you can promote practicality by starting an organic process. With clay you can mix sharp sand, basalt flour and lava granules to improve the old structure. Sandy soil is indeed easier to work with, but it also has the disadvantage that it heats up more quickly and dries out. You can increase the humus content, sow a green manure (phacelia), add a thick pack of leaves and also add clay minerals Bentonite in the spring. 
  2. Build an underground cycle
    Beneath your garden surface there is a huge network of fungi, bacteria, microbes and all kinds of worms, which ensure the conversion of organic (plant) material into food that can be absorbed by plants. A number of organisms live on each other and also provide lightness and flow of water and nutrients. Everyone knows the earthworm. They draw up minerals from the soil and pull down organic matter such as dead leaves and grass clippings. The tunnel system that arises provides air and moisture transport, a climate in which plants like to grow. In addition to the earthworm, there are many more ‘critters’ in the top 15 cm of your garden soil. On an average humus-rich square meter, 50 to 100 earthworms, 50 snails, dozens of woodlice, a few hundred millipedes and millipedes and beetles live easily.
    You start the underground cycle and maintain it by providing a sufficient supply of organic material at the top. A good starting point is to immediately return everything that leaves the garden, for example in your vegetable garden. But you shouldn’t dispose of leaf waste in your ornamental garden but just reuse it immediately, take a look at leaf facts 
  3. Leave your garden soil alone
    Here too we have to talk about the past and the still customary contemporary agriculture. For a long time it was very common that you lay your garden in the autumn on ‘the winter furrow’. This still happens in agriculture. It’s understandable that you do some digging or forking to mix old cow manure or other organic matter, but think about the time and make sure you leave the top 6 inches in place. After all, the top 20 cm contains your living, invisible factory that promotes and maintains the cycle of life. Deep digging and/or very severe winter frosts can completely destroy the years of build-up of soil life.
    Sometimes doing nothing is just better. The pronounciation; “Nothing is more beautiful than a freshly cut garden!” is completely obsolete in our opinion. We assume that traditional agriculture will increasingly make way for an organic approach. A collaboration with and not against Mother Nature. 
  4. Protect your soil
    The changed climatic conditions also have consequences for your garden soil.
    Your garden soil will have to deal with more extreme periods of lots of water and just as many periods of extreme heat and drought. Remember that your garden soil is a living organ and that you need to protect it against the climatic conditions just like yourself.
    So cover that bottom with a blanket. You can do it in countless ways. With mulchingThis process has also been given its own term. It can be done in several ways with straw, leaves, wood chips and cocoa shells. It is fair to say that mulching is mainly motivated to prevent germinating weeds. Also a good argument, but counteracting leaching of nutrients, activating soil life, which enjoys it under the moist (waste) layer, and not drying out due to warming, we find more important than weeds. As long as you understand that everything is connected. You can water your plants when there is a drought, but if ‘a well-oiled underground machine’ is active every day, your plants are more resilient, they root deeper and therefore suffer less from drought. It is exactly the same in extreme cold. 
  5. Fertilize with policy
    You now understand that your auxiliary troops in the top layer are quite vulnerable and that you must do everything you can to keep them in their value and function. Fertilizers and pesticides are literally ‘lethal’. The problem with many nutrients and fertilizers is that, despite the titles and descriptions, you don’t really know what has been added to elements. So caution is advised. A reason to rely extra on your own compost heap and to make generous use of it. In fact, your compost heap is part of the somewhat larger garden cycle. The vegetable and fruit waste, your leftovers and the temporary excess of leaves from certain garden corners are perfect as extra nutrition and care. The bottom line is that you should/may use organic and ecological materials, but handle them in moderation. 
  6. Break through disturbing layers
    If water remains in your garden, this is often the result of a disturbing layer in the subsoil. You can break through such a layer by digging deep into the border with a mobile crane. Another option is to drill deep vertical holes by means of a motor drill (which is normally used to place fence posts). If you fill the holes with organic material, they don’t immediately close again and you also help the worms, who do the same. 

A garden is an interplay of all kinds of processes and parts. If the interplay is played well, your garden is extra resilient and by definition a paradise to stay in for you and all other life.
Also look at:

  • What is a sustainable garden
  • What is a climate adaptive garden
  • What is a biodiverse garden
  • what is mulching
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