Top tips for improving your soil
• 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.