May 24 • 8M

Is Your Soil Structure Good?

So you think your soil is no good and you want to make it better. Where to start?

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Exploring inexpensive ways to garden organically with minimal work and inputs.
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Gardeners are at their most vulnerable in their quest for soil amendment. Garden center salespeople spot these individuals like wolves picking out stragglers from a herd, and they move in quickly to “help”, offering a range of potions, powders and pastes. Some of these may help in the short term. Most of them are a waste of money.

We all wonder about our soil quality from time to time, but we don’t always ask the right questions. (source: https://www.peakpx.com/en/hd-wallpaper-desktop-fxtwe)

The standard advice that any horticulturist will offer whenever someone asks about their soil is to get a soil test, and to add the things that the soil test says are lacking in the soil. This isn’t bad advice – but it still may not help, because a soil test can only tell you so much. In general, it will tell you how many parts per million (ppm) you have in the soil for phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), and magnesium (Mg), and the pH of the soil – and then it will tell you what needs to be added to the soil to bring the levels up to optimal. This sounds great in principle, but it only gets you so far, and the suggested solutions are temporary at best.

Here’s an example of soil test results. As you can see, the results say nothing about soil structure or available nitrogen. (source: https://extension.psu.edu/interpreting-your-soil-test-reports)

Soil tests do not tell the whole story

A closer examination of the results of a soil test will reveal that many pieces of the puzzle are still missing, despite the useful information that they provide. While you now know your soil pH, P, K and Mg – you still have no idea if it has enough nitrogen for the plants you are trying to grow – or if it’s getting enough hours of good sun, or if it’s too wet or too dry. You also don’t know anything about it’s structure – and that’s important!

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