Soil and Soil Amendments

There is nothing more basic to your garden than the soils and fertilizers that you decide to use.  There is a lot to know about soil, and depending on the type of gardening you do and your level of gardening expertise, you may want to check out some of the external links for more extensive information. Read on for a quick introduction to everything you need to know about soil for your home and garden use. Happy planting! 

The Dirt on Your Dirt

You might be thinking to yourself, "I've got a whole yard full of dirt; why should I buy more dirt when I get it for free?" You're right brown loam. Your vegetables win prizes at county fairs, your flowers are big and fragrant, and your shrubs have filled out nicely every year. If you're like the other 99% of the gardening population, however, your yard could probably use a little help. Maybe you live in an apartment and want to start a garden on your balcony. You might want to plant annuals in organic potting soil to use for organic flower, vegetable or herb gardens, or just to "green" your garden even further. 

What is Soil?

Soil is a complicated mixture of organic and inorganic matter. The inorganic portion is mostly weathered rock, in the form of gravel, sand, silt, or clay, as well as air and water. The organic part is composed of both living and decaying plant and animal matter. In addition, a healthy soil has thriving populations of microorganisms. Fertile soils usually have a humus component, which helps stabilize the soil. If you're interested in reading a lot about soil (and there is quite a lot to read) check out this Wikipedia article about soil and this one on humus.

Buying Soil

There are a number of ready-made soil mixtures available. Most of the time they are labeled with their uses, but it isn't always easy to know at first glance what you need. *Soil Amendments Different soils have different physical properties. Clay and silt hold moisture and nutrients well, but they don't drain well and can be hard for plants to penetrate. Sandy soils drain well, but they don't hold nutrients and can quickly become depleted. To fix a problem with soil texture, you should add an amendment. Often, compost is the answer bin'>compost bin.) * '''Compost''' many gardening supply stores will sell you fresh compost. * '''Composted manure''' manure'>composting manure helps release the nutrients contained in the raw manure. It's also less... fragrant. * '''Humus''' very dark and full of nutrients. (Not the chickpea spread, that's hummus.) *coconut husk based amendments.  * Lowe's has some excellent, easyready articles on soil and improving your soil. Soil can also be amended to adjust its pH. The pH of the soil is how acidic or basic it is and can easily be tested with a small lime to the soil.


For more information, read the guide to buying mulch.


For more information, read the guide to buying fertilizer.

Organic, Vegan, Biodynamic...

Organic vs. Inorganic

Organic people keep using that word. Whatever you think organic means, it also means something else. There are three meanings for the term: * From a strict chemistry perspective, organic means '''any compound containing carbon'''. Urea created in a lab is organic; naturally-occurring phosphate is not organic. * Another definition is that organic means '''anything derived from a plant or animal'''. Thus, synthetic urea would not be organic, naturally-occurring phosphate is not organic, but manure is organic. * The broadest definition, and the one used for organic farming and gardening, is that '''anything existing naturally, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral''', is organic. By this definition, synthetic urea is not organic, but naturally-occurring phosphate and manure are.

Other Potting Necessities

* Vermiculite/Perlite to improve drainage.Perlite *Pottery Shards * Gravel helps break up dense, clay-rich soils, improves drainage, and allows your plants to penetrate the soil more easily. * Sand works like gravel, but it's smaller and easier to mix with your soil.Sand