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The Secret Behind Your Soil

No matter how green of a thumb you may have, you need healthy soil for your garden to truly grow and thrive. To ensure that your garden bed’s soil is healthy, you need to understand soil’s five key components:

  • Minerals. A majority of your garden’s soil is made up of weathered rock that has been broken down overtime by weather elements and other natural processes. The type of your soil is determined by the size of these minerals. For example, sand is made up of large particles. Silt is composed of medium-sized particles, and clay contains extremely small particles. The proportion of these particles determines the amount of nutrients your soil contains, its texture and how well it drains water.
  • Organic Matter. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of your soil contains organic matter. Although it only makes up a small fraction of your garden’s soil, it is absolutely essential to promote plant growth. This matter is anything that contains carbon compounds formed by living organisms including: lawn clippings, stems, leaves, mosses, lichens, etc. Why are these so important? This matter binds together soil particles into granules, which allow air and water to move throughout your garden’s soil. The organic matter not only promotes the movement of water, but also retains water and nutrients. It also serves as food for microorganisms that call your garden’s soil home.

    How can you ensure that your garden contains a sufficient amount of this matter? You can increase the soil’s organic matter by adding compost, animal manure, mulches or moss to the first six inches of soil in your garden bed.
  • Soil life. Your soil is composed of protozoa, nematodes, mites, springtails, bacteria, fungi, earthworms, etc. All of these tiny critters are critical for your plants’ growth and sustainability. They help convert matter and minerals into the hormones, nutrients, vitamins and compounds necessary for your plants to live. How can you ensure that your soil life is abundant and healthy? Provide them with a sufficient source of food, oxygen and water. These organisms feed on the carbohydrates found in the organic matter mentioned previously.
  • Air. For your garden to be healthy, it should contain approximately 25 percent air. This air not only keeps soil life alive, but also provides the nitrogen that plants need to grow and live. The trick to having the right amount of air in your soil is to have plenty of space between the soil’s particles. Clay and silt contain fine particles, which allow for very little space between them. While sand’s large particles contain plenty of air between them. However, keep in mind that too much air can cause your soil’s organic matter to decompose at a much faster rate. So you may be thinking, “how do I ensure that my garden has enough air, but not too much?” You can achieve the perfect balance by adding plenty of organic matter, avoid compacting the soil with your feet or equipment and never ever work the soil when it is extremely wet.
  • Water. As a gardener, you know that the key to a healthy, green garden is an adequate supply of water. Healthy soil contains nearly 25 percent water. Water resides in the pore spaces between the particles of soil. The particles in sand contains such large spaces that the water drains extremely quickly. This is why sandy soil is often too dry. However, small pore space can force the water back upwards to the top of the soil, not allowing it to reach the roots. This means that your soil should ideally contain both large and small pore spaces for proper water filtration, and this is again where organic matter comes into play.

Now that you understand what your garden is truly made of, you can work to better balance these components this gardening season. If you have questions on how to promote the healthiest soil for your garden, our friendly, experienced staff can help. Visit any of the four Joe’s Market Basket locations today for all of your gardening needs!