How to - Gardening Basics

Whip your soil into tip-top shape

Learn why garden success starts in the earth

If you want great results above ground you have to pay attention to what’s going on below ground. While we may talk a lot about fertilizing plants, it’s actually well-fed soil that’s the key to productive, sustainable gardens no matter where you live in Canada.

Soil—never call it dirt—is a combination of minerals (sand, silt and clay), organic matter, micro-organisms, water and air. The type of soil that most gardeners aim for is called loam, which has a mineral content of 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt and 20 percent clay.

In addition to the mineral content, really good garden soil should consist of at least 50% organic matter: that’s the stuff that’s responsible for most of your soil’s water-holding capacity, much of its nutrient value, improving its tilth (thereby increasing water and air penetration), and providing food for the millions of beneficial micro-organisms, bacteria, fungi and insects that are all a part of healthy soil. So whether you garden on a sand dune or in a clay quarry, the advice will always remain the same: add organic matter!

Organic matter comes in many forms and in various stages of decay: I like to think of it as a soil conditioner—something that improves both soil structure and fertility. Most soil conditioners also contain plant nutrients.


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