When it comes to gardenin, we often tend to overlook one of the most important ingredients: soil.
But while it might not be the most glamorous part of the growing process, soil is definitely one of the most important.
According to experts, the condition of your soil affects everything from how fast your plants grow, to their susceptibility to disease and pests.
Healthy soil doesn’t just keep your plants looking lush, either – it actually makes them healthier for you to eat. It’s pretty simple really: mineral-rich soil means mineral-rich plants, and a mineral-rich diet. Maybe not so interesting for the flower fanatics amongst us, but for those growing their own food at home, it’s super relevant.
So now we know why we need healthy soil, let’s talk about how we keep it that way. After all, soil can be a lot more complex than you might expect, especially when you’re new to the veggie patch!
Get your soil straight from the start.
When shopping for soil, we recommend you look for a high-quality one that’s preferably organic and includes fertiliser, trace elements, perlite and bark fines. Or if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, here's something you can do yourself at home:
2 x 25 litre bags of premium organic potting mix
1 x 5 litre bag of Perlite
Mix together and fill the planter, plant soil with seeds or seedlings, then top with pea straw to lock in moisture
Water with worm tea or organic liquid fertiliser from time to time (to help keep plants thriving)
When filling your planter, it’s also important to think about the soil structure (in other words, don’t let it get too wet or compacted). You can always add extra Pearlite to help with density and drainage too.
Keeping your soil up to standard.
Once your garden is established, you’ll need to keep an eye on your soil to make sure it stays in good shape. Here’s how you can tell if there may be problems below the surface, and what to do about each one.
Warning signs: your plants are stunted, turning pale green or yellowing.
Diagnosis: nitrogen deficiency.
Remedy: add blood and bone, seaweed extract or manure. You might also want to think about growing peas or beans in there to restore nitrogen to the soil. Using pea-straw mulch is another great way to add nitrogen back in.
Warning signs: sparse and spindly plants, and leaves turning dull blue-green or purple leaves, then yellow.
Diagnosis: phosphorous deficiency.
Remedy: again, blood and bone or chicken manure is the best way to treat this. A regular application of compost or worm tea can also help get things back on track.
Warning signs: the edges and tips of your leaves are spotted with yellow, and stalks are short and thin.
Diagnosis: potassium deficiency.
Remedy: add seaweed extract and organic matter. Regular use of worm tea will also ensure potassium levels are restored.
Keeping things thriving.
While some of the problems above are hard to pre-empt, there are things you can do to prevent them from happening. The main secret to keeping your soil healthy is to keep your eyes open! Don’t forget to keep an eye on your soil structure to make sure it doesn’t compress over time, and keep that magical worm tea coming. With regular TLC, your soil will stay in primo condition and your plants will thank you for it!