Top tips for im­prov­ing your soil

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Travel -

• Change your at­ti­tude to what is ‘nor­mal’ and what is ‘best’. For­get the idea that plants need con­stant food from out­side sources such as fer­tilis­ers and that the soil is in­ca­pable of car­ing for it­self. Be happy with the odd clover or spot­ted leaf. • Try to avoid us­ing fungi­cides on your plants as this will only dam­age all the ben­e­fi­cial or­gan­isms that you are try­ing to main­tain. This goes for pes­ti­cides, too, and – as much as pos­si­ble – her­bi­cides. These also dam­age the life within the soil in the long run, cre­at­ing greater prob­lems for your soil and plants. In­stead, build and main­tain a healthy pop­u­la­tion of mi­cro-or­gan­isms, fungi, bac­te­ria by us­ing sus­tain­able tech­niques and al­low them to care for your plants as na­ture in­tended. • Only walk on soil when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary, and when you do so, use boards to dis­trib­ute your weight. Com­paction is one of the most dam­ag­ing ef­fects on soil, caus­ing it to be­come anaer­o­bic and to be­gin to tox­ify, killing many of the ben­e­fi­cial mi­crobes. • Avoid over cul­ti­va­tion, as this will dam­age the struc­ture of the soil and tear apart the im­por­tant fun­gal sys­tem es­tab­lished within it. Try not to cul­ti­vate to cre­ate a neat look; in­stead be happy with the fluffy cake-like tex­ture that you get from a healthy soil. • When­ever pos­si­ble, opt for bare-rooted plants and plant them at any time of year. This will force the plant to es­tab­lish quickly; it will be far stronger and health­ier for it, but do take spe­cial care not to dam­age the roots. Re­move the soil, wash the roots and plant into a hole that is no big­ger than nec­es­sary. Use the pot­ting soil as a mulch around the base of the plant if you wish.

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