Author: Adam Fitzhenry Date Posted:19 February 2020
Most of us want healthy plants and lawns and the secret starts with the soil.
So, you’re trying to lay the groundwork for homegrown garden success?! Cultivating healthy gardens and lawns doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does start with the soil. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a soil scientist to get the basics right.
Soil is a living eco system that can be dead, healthy, sick or undernourished. Cultivating healthy soil is a combination of a stable pH, good soil structure, biodiversity of soil life, level of organic matter and the soil’s ability to hold and release nutrients to plants.
If you’re after long term healthy lawns and gardens, your success will depend on the state of your soil. It will also help protect your plants from disease issues, pests and of course, look and grow better.
Determining the health of your soil
First things first, get to know your soil. A handful of soil will give you an indication of its structure. Is it dry or moist? What colour is it? Can you see any earthworms?
Generally speaking, there are three main types of soil that include clay soil, sandy soil and loam, which is ideal for gardens and lawns. The below table will give you a rough idea of your soil health based on its colour.
Black or dark brown soil
Decaying organic matter is usually present meaning soil is generally fertile.
Pale brown or yellow
Typical of soils where organic matter and nutrients are low and are poor in fertility and structure. This type of soil needs plenty of organic matter and mulching.
Commonly associated with soil that has experienced extensive weathering and good drainage but needs nutrients and organic matter. The red colour is a result of the oxidising or iron compounds (rusting) is the soil.
Adding organic content
Hand’s down – this is one of the best ways to improve your soil! It’s fair to say that organic matter is the lifeblood for healthy functioning soil and without it, soil can and will often starve. It helps store nutrients, improve soil structure, retain moisture and provides a food source for earthworms and microorganisms.
Organic matter is any material previously alive and can include compost, lawn clippings and animal manure. It doesn’t matter whether your soil is low in nutrients, clay-based or sandy, organic matter will help.
Having your own compost system is an ideal method of delivering organic matter to you soil. But if not, there are several other options available.
You can try adding grass clippings, aged manure, coffee grounds, shredded leaves that have fallen, worm castings and organic nutrient-dense fertilisers such as Seaweed Secrets, Humic Acid, Power Pellets, Nature’s Soil Wetter, Activ8mate or Fulvic acid.
Having a healthy pH
This is simply a measurement of the acidity or alkalinity in your soil, but it does affect the minerals in the soil and their availability to plants. Generally, the more neutral your soil is, the better plants are able to absorb minerals. While some plants prefer more acidic soil, a more neutral pH is ideal for most flowers, herbs and vegetables.
You can pick up a soil pH testing kit from most hardware stores or nurseries and this will help determine whether or not there’s an imbalance.
Acidic soil: If the pH of your soil is less than 6.5, it’s probably too acidic for most plants. You can improve this by regularly adding quality compost and dolomite or limestone. These can come in powder or granular forms, or we stock liquids for a quick and easy application.
Alkaline soil: If your test reads higher than 6.8, you may need to acidify your soil, which is generally achieved by adding sulfur.
Note: Amending soil pH doesn’t typically happen quickly and it can take several years (or longer) to turn a heavy clay soil into a nice sandy loam soil. Before trying to amend your soil pH too drastically, seek a professional opinion, as some test kits, and instructions, may not be entirely accurate.
Generally speaking, if you increase the organic matter in your soil, you will also be delivering nutrients. But you can give your lawns and gardens a helping hand with some ideal products.
If you prefer liquid or water-soluble fertilisers, you can apply our Nature’s Soil Wetter, Seaweed Secrets and/or Activ8mate, in smaller amounts more frequently. Or if you favour the granular or powdered variety, our Power Pellets, Humic and Fulvic acid Powders or granules, Nature’s Soil Wetter or our range of Champion fertilisers are an excellent alternative.
And lastly, but certainly not least, is VolcaMin Zeolite, the landscape grade. This under-rated soil improver holds more than sixty per cent of its weight in water, therefore making it an excellent long-term and cost-effective water saving solution. VolcaMin Zeolite traps and holds nutrients and fertilisers, releasing them to the plant or grass when needed and helps reduce chemical usage and wastage. It’s ideal for improving soil structure and helps create a home for beneficial microbes. You can blend this with granular fertilisers prior to application to reduce chemical usage and nutrient run-off and it also helps reduce chemical burn from cheap or volatile fertilisers.
First time owning lawn. Gave the team at plant doctor a ring and they supplied me with a wealth of information. Products turned up quickly.
Will definitely be getting more 8 weeks difference been using stimulizer, activ8mate, soil wetter, seaweed secrets and champion fertiliser. Was super fast delivery.
Amazing products!! The results are excellent and the prices are even better! Postage was only 2 days as well. Highly recommended!
Only have great things to say about Plant Doctor. Organic products and a competitive price, fast shipping and easy to contact with questions. Have had great results with the special mix for lawns, and my plants (indoor and outdoor) love the seaweed secrets. I am excited to test out some of the animal products soon!