Creating and maintaining a garden is a labor of love. Gardeners at the Ford House consider many variables and cultural practices into account to ensure that the landscape stays beautiful year-round and year after year.
The quote in the photo says it all; the one factor that is frequently overlooked provides a plant with its most basic needs, caring for the soil. Soil is the anchor that provides the nutrients needed for plants to make food as well as oxygen and support for their roots. Good soils can be ruined and poor soils can be improved through various cultural practices.
Proper soil management can help save plants from diseases and pests, improve the environment, save money and lighten the load on the gardeners back. Having healthy soil in a garden reduces chemical runoff, erosion, weed problems and helps retain water.
Some good ways to ensure the soil in your garden stays healthy are:
- Cover soil with mulch to hold in moisture, reduces weeds, and provide food for plants and soil organisms in the soil as it breaks down,
- Add compost, manure, or other organic matter to improve soil structure and tilth,
- Avoid compacting soil so that oxygen and nutrients can reach roots,
- Mulch leaves into turf or till them into soil instead of bagging and sending away,
- Use fertilizers and pesticides properly and as a last resort. Many times, chemicals and nutrients are washed away after improper application.
- Know your plants and the cultural conditions they require to thrive.
By following these steps to a healthier soil base, you will be able to maintain a healthy, beautiful garden for years while also saving money on replacement soil and watering costs. To determine the health of your soil and which nutrients are present and which ones need to be added, Michigan State University offers soil testing kits. Once you order a kit, you can send it back to MSU and receive a custom program to meet your plant’s needs.