Soil is always the common denominator in healthy vegetable gardens, but why is the soil quality so important? The importance of soil lies in its ability to give growing vegetables the nutrients they need to sustain, as well as the right amount of air and oxygen for the plant roots to grow.
In gardening, it all comes down to the soil. It’s the foundation for all gardening that takes place. There are three critical aspects to healthy soil, which will lead to healthy vegetable plants:
- Air – enough space for oxygen to flow
- Nutrients – organic matter
The air, water and nutrients are mixed in with soil particles to create an environment conducive to providing support to the plants growing above ground. Gases are another important aspect of healthy soil conditions, specifically the combination of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. These three gases need to be in equilibrium in order for soil to be deemed healthy. Oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide need to be exchanged between the soil and atmosphere for equilibrium to be achieved.
Soil testing is recommended to ensure your soil is where it needs to be for vegetables to flourish. If your soil appears to be hard, soggy, sandy or stony, it’s time to take some action. The good news is poor soil conditions can be turned around. Adding the right materials to your soil will improve soil texture and revive your garden.
When all the components of healthy soil are in place, it creates an environment for organisms like worms, insects and microorganisms like algae and fungi to do their part. Our role as gardeners is to create perfect conditions for these organisms to do their work. Their role is to create pathways for water and air to nourish the roots of plants; essentially increasing infiltration. These organisms also play an important role by providing important nutrients to the roots, simply by providing access.
Organic matter is widely considered the “magic” ingredient to healthy soil by seasoned gardeners. Organic matter refers to compost, manure, leaves and other natural elements otherwise considered waste. Organic matter improves the fertility of the soil because when our healthy crops pop up season after season, we’re stripping the soil of the nutrients it needs. Organic matter replenishes those nutrients.
Remember, your garden is only as fruitful as the quality of its soil. Maintaining healthy soil is a continuous process, but it should be a top priority for every gardener.
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