BiotiQuest® Gut Health & Probiotics Blog with Martha Carlin

Revitalize Your Garden: Expert Tips on Rejuvenating Your Soil for Lush and Vibrant Plants

Martha Carlin | Jun 26, 2023 | 6 minutes read

Do you ever find that no matter how much effort you put into maintaining your garden, your plants do not seem to thrive? The problem may lie in your soil. Soil depletion, compaction, and erosion can negatively impact the nutrient levels and microbial activity crucial for healthy plant growth, ultimately leading to a lackluster garden. However, keep hope. With expert-recommended techniques, proven methods, and organic solutions, you can rejuvenate your garden soil and revitalize your plants. Keep reading to learn how to safeguard your garden and create a sustainable, vibrant, fruitful oasis.

What is garden soil?

Garden soil is mixed soil with different nutrients usually added to existing soil, depending on the plant species planted during the growing season. Plant diversity has led to diverse soil requirements. Vegetable garden beds, for example, are prepared by removing hard particles or breaking them to fine-loosen the soil. After acquiring loosened soil, unwanted plant debris is removed, and essential organic materials are added. Other vital materials for garden soil are compounds such as charcoal that help in carbon sequestration, and organic amendments such as peat moss, grass clippings, straw, and wood ash, among others. Organic amendments improve the soil texture and the water and nutrient holding capacity.

What is soil structure?

Soil structure refers to the way soil particles are arranged and bonded together. It influences water retention, aeration, and nutrient availability. It generally influences soil health. Soil that has poor structure may become compacted, leading to poor drainage, water-logging, and limited root growth. Garden soil with a good structure has a loose, crumbly texture that allows water and air to circulate freely, promoting healthy root growth and making the soil healthy.

The hazardous effect of soil erosion

Soil erosion is the process by which soil is removed or displaced by wind, water, or other natural forces. It can occur for various reasons, leading to soil depletion and reduced fertility. Soil erosion can also lead to soil compaction, limiting water and nutrient availability and affecting plant growth. A good gardener should control soil erosion as much as possible to maintain healthy soils in their position.

Soil fertility

Soil fertility refers to the soil's ability to provide essential nutrients to plants. Various factors, such as soil structure, organic matter content, pH level, and nutrient availability, influence soil fertility. Infertile soil can lead to stunted plant growth, yellow leaves, and reduced crop yield.

Restore soil fertility

It would be best to replenish the soil's essential nutrients to restore soil fertility. One way to achieve this is by adding organic matter to your soil. Organic matter, such as compost, animal manure such as horse manure, cow manure, rabbit manure, or shredded leaves, is an excellent source of essential nutrients and can help improve soil profile and water retention. Adding organic matter to your soil also encourages microbial activity, which helps break down organic matter, releasing nutrients and making a living soil.

Soil restoration

Soil restoration is the process of improving soil health, structure, and fertility. To restore your garden soil, you must follow a holistic approach that addresses various factors affecting soil health. This includes adding organic matter, improving soil structure, minimizing soil erosion, and maintaining a healthy balance of soil organisms.

Soil organic matter

Soil organic matter refers to the organic materials in soil, including dead and decaying plant and animal materials. It’s essential for soil microbes and nutrient cycling. It is also a key component in forming and stabilizing soil aggregates, which contributes to soil health. The decomposition process releases nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur into the soil, making them available for plant uptake.

Organic matter also plays a role in water retention in the soil. It acts as a sponge, absorbing and holding water in the soil. This can be especially important in areas with low rainfall or in times of drought, as it helps to keep the soil moist and reduces the need for irrigation. It helps to improve the soil by promoting the formation of stable soil aggregates. These aggregates help to create pore spaces in the soil, allowing water and air to move freely through it. This can be especially important for root growth, as it provides an environment conducive to root penetration and nutrient uptake. Organic matter can be added to the soil through various sources, such as organic compost, green manures, and leaf mold.

Organic material

Organic material is the heart source of most carbon compounds found in the natural environment. It’s comprised of animal and plant waste, which decay to release important to the soil, influencing plant roots and general plant growth.Compost piles and green manures are mainly added to the soil to obtain organic soil. You can control soil degradation and improve soil carbon sequestration by adding organic compounds to your garden soil.

How do soil organisms help to rejuvenate your garden soil?

Soil organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and earthworms, play a crucial role in maintaining healthy garden soil. They break down organic matter, releasing essential nutrients into the soil and improving soil structure.

In addition to avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which can harm soil organisms, you can add compost, manure, or other organic matter to your soil to provide a food source for soil organisms.

7 Ways to Improve Garden Soil

Your garden soil is the foundation of a healthy and productive garden. It is a complex ecosystem comprising minerals, organic matter, water, air, and countless microorganisms. Soil is not just a growing medium for your plants; it is a living entity that interacts with your plants in many ways, providing them with essential nutrients and water and supporting their root systems. However, soil can deplete and compact over time, losing its vital nutrients, structure, and microorganisms, leading to poor plant growth.

 Here are a few ways to improve your garden soil:

1. Feed it an organic diet
One of the most effective ways to rejuvenate garden soil is to feed it an organic diet. Organic matter is crucial for healthy soil; adding it to your garden can enhance the soil's nutrient levels, structure, and microbial activity.
You can create a thriving, sustainable, and productive garden by providing your soil with organic materials like compost.

2. Cover the soil with organic mulch
Mulching is the process by which soil is covered with organic matter, protecting the soil from direct sunlight and retaining moisture. 
Mulch also prevents soil erosion, and later decomposes to provide nutrients to microorganisms that improve the soil.

3. Prevent soil compaction
Compacted soil limits the entry of water, air, and nutrients making the soil deficient. It is essential to prevent soil compaction to help maintain your garden soil. Some main ways to prevent soil compaction include avoiding working on too-wet soil because the soil will dry and compact later. Avoid walking on garden soil by dividing your garden, leaving some paths to walk on.

4. Practice crop rotation 
Continuous planting of one crop type in the same garden bed depletes nutrients the soil microorganisms need. Rotation of crops prevents depletion of these nutrients and interrupts pests and disease cycles. Some crop families add nutrients to the soil, essential to other crops.

5. Planting cover crop
Different crops, such as buckwheat, ry and barley, grow so that they cover most of the soil surface. Cover crop improves garden soil by preventing soil erosion and conserving moisture, creating a conducive environment for soil microorganisms, preventing soil compaction and the growth of weeds. After maturation, cover crops will decompose to improve soil fertility.

6. Add animal manure
Animal manure is added to garden soil to improve its fertility and health. 
It is important to note that young animal manure is too hot for the soil. It tends to burn most of the soil constituents. Therefore, aged animal manure is highly recommended. Ordinary animal manure is used from chicken, cows, goats, and sheep manure. Avoid using pesticides by finding out what the animals were fed before using their manure, to avoid introducing them into your garden soil.

7. Avoid using synthetic pesticides and herbicides
Introducing synthetic pesticides and herbicides negatively impacts the overall health of your garden soil. They affect the composition of the soil, including microbes that are essential in improving your garden soil. To improve your garden soil, avoid using synthetic pesticides and herbicides (commonly found in fertilizers) as much as you can.

How do you bring nutrients back to the soil?

There are several ways to put nutrients back into your garden beds. The most common and easy ways are composting, mulching, and avoiding using chemical fertilizers and herbicides. Compost and mulch house soil microorganisms that help break down organic compounds and avail nutrients for plant growth.

How can I regenerate my soil naturally?

If you think you might have poor soil and find yourself asking what to do,  the first step to take is to perform a soil test to know the condition of your garden soil. Many universities with agricultural programs offer soil testing, or you can contact a local garden center for more information. After soil testing, follow the seven steps above to add important nutrients back in and restore your soil.

Finally, consider adding a probiotic to your garden! Yield & Shield is a microbial guild, made specifically for the soil to naturally improve your plant growth and garden health. The bacteria strains were specifically selected for their abilities to make nutrients already in the soil more bioavailable, to capture nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil and to break down harmful chemicals like glyphosate.

Can degraded soil be restored?
Yes, soil degradation is widespread, and the condition can be reversed by following the tips discussed in this article. In addition, preventing soil degradation is way better. If you’re just starting out on your gardening journey, you can read more on how to avoid degraded soil here. And if you’re looking to improve nutritional uptake in your existing garden, and increase yield in a natural, organic way without the use of chemical fertilizers, be sure to check out Yield & Shield.

Happy gardening!

With gratitude,

Martha Carlin photo Martha Carlin, is a “Citizen Scientist”, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective , a microbiome company expanding the reach of science and BiotiQuest, the first of it’s kind probiotic line. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human disease. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.

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