A fertile and healthy soil is the basis for healthy plants, animals, and humans. Soil organic matter is the very foundation for healthy and productive soils.
Why is soil and soil health so important? Simply put, soil sustains life by helping plants to grow. It is also home to worms, beetles, bacteria and fungi, providing them with the nutrients they need to live.
Without soil, there would be nowhere to grow food that is the sustenance of life. Soil contains food, water and air that is needed by plants to grow. The healthier the soil, the more nutrients a plant can take up. The healthier the plant, the better it is for humans and animals to eat. The quality of the soil ultimately affects the health of all people and animals.
What Is Soil?
Soil is made up of minerals, living organisms and organic matter. Minerals consist of rocks and bedrock that has broken down over time. Living organisms include a number of beneficial animals, such as beetles, worms and moles. Together with essential bacteria they help break down the organic matter making it accessible to plants. Organic matter is decaying material such as rotting leaves, animal waste and dead animals.
Maintaining Healthy Soil
It is essential to maintain healthy living soils, by caring for our soil properly, we can ensure the longevity of both animals and people. Life is a Garden encourage you to the following to maintain healthy soil: Avoiding the use of chemicals that create an imbalance in the soil. The long-term effects of some chemicals may kill off unwanted pests, but they may ultimately destroy living organisms that are essential to the creation of healthy soil.
- Using compost in your own garden can help to replace nutrients necessary for healthy soil. Compost is easy to make from leaves, dead plants and vegetable waste from the kitchen.
Although starting flowers, vegetables, herbs and lawn from seed seems like an easy task the Life is a Garden team are often asked questions around the very basics of how to sow seeds.
There are many different things to consider, depending on what seed you are sowing and where, but here are just a few tips and guidelines:
- Think about what you are going to plant, how much, and where. This involves a bit of arithmetic. Work out your planting area in square meters and decide how much seed is required. All the detail required is on the back of the seed packet. Plant what you enjoy eating! If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, just don’t plant them!
- Before sowing, think about which flower, veggie or lawn you want, and design it on a rough plan. Then research correct soil preparation. Most important, also check whether the seed should be sown in seedling trays or direct into the soil, and watch for correct sowing depth, which is a classic reason for failure. If you are sowing in trays use seedling mix or coir mix, and not potting soil which is too coarse.
- Once started, there are three main reasons why things go wrong and if you avoid these three common errors, you are pretty much guaranteed success. They are sowing time, position, and water. Get one, two or three of these wrong and it is unlikely you will succeed. There are three sowing times; Summer, Winter, and “all seasons” (throughout the year), so check the seed packet before sowing.
- There are also three possible positions; full-sun, semi-shade, and shade, and again, check the seed packet before sowing. Of the three common errors, water is the most important. It is vital that you always follow the sowing instructions and keep the sowing area moist.
With the rather aggressive onset of our 2019 summer, it is increasingly obvious that “climate change” is not just an inconsequential topic of debate between politicians and environmental activists. Here at ground level we are experiencing the classic signs of increased temperatures and lower rainfall more regularly and more persistently.
Unfortunately for our much-loved gardens, these harsh conditions can be stressful for plants and we need to act before the weather takes its toll on our urban flora. But what to do about it?
Mulch! Mulching is currently one of the best ways to save water and create a happier, healthier environment for plants. Here’s why mulch is so much more than just a pretty covering for your flower beds.
Benefits of mulch
Mulch acts as a shield and protects soil from intense heat. It prevents soil water from evaporating, and coarser types of mulch also allow for air flow above the soil surface. In this way it moderates the temperature of the soil, which is important for all the micro- and macro-organisms (such as earthworms) required to promote good soil health. Mulch has the added benefits of reducing garden maintenance by suppressing weeds, insulating the roots of plants during frosty periods, preventing soil erosion during heavy rainfall and reducing the salt accumulation in the soil.
Organic mulching materials are available in several different types from your local Garden Centre with popular choices including:
- bark chips
- macadamia nut shells
- peach pips
- shredded bark
- wood chip and
Inorganic mulches can also be used to similar effect and although they do not break down and provide nutrients to garden beds, they have the advantage of being durable and longer lasting. Examples of inorganic mulches include:
- gravel chips and
- dump rock.
With a wide variety of colours and sizes available you are sure to create a beautiful yet practical space.