Weeds and soil fertility can tell you a lot about your garden, and it’s important to listen! One of the best ways to improve your gardening and to be able to grow strong, healthy plants is to pay attention to problems such as infertile soil and weeds. It’s true these two things can help you a lot in improving your garden.

Get to Know the Soil

Soil can tell you a lot of important things about your garden. You need to know that type of soil you have in your garden and what its make up is. If you are unsure about it, check with our county extension office to gather all the needed information.

Keep in mind that “soil fertility” is more than simple ratio of elements. It’s not about macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, even though these nutrients do play an important part. The thing is that it’s not just about them, so it’s important to get the bigger picture about your soil. For example, you need to know how much organic matter is in your soil. This is vital because these organic agents are there to support microbial life and make all the nutrients (macro and micro) available to plants. The best first step in gardening is to help your plants by knowing your soil: it’s nutrients and its organic matter.

Again, if you are unsure about the general soil types in your area, contact your county extension office and request information on soil types. This will give you a general idea about the soil. However, this is just that first step. To get the exact picture about the soil in your garden, you will need to perform a soil test. Luckily, these tests are very affordable so you can do them easily. You can find a soil test kit online or in your local garden center.

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Soil pH Values

One of the first things you need to know about the soil in your garden is its pH value. Typically, it’s important to know if the soil is alkaline or acidic, and it’s all about the pH scale. This scale refers to parts of hydrogen ions in the soil. The concentration of these ions affects the availability of nutrients to plant roots, so it’s vital to know what your garden soil pH values are.

The pH scale is easy to understand. It goes from 0 to 14. Neutral value is 7, the middle of the scale. Anything below 7 is considered acidic while above 7 is considered alkaline soil.

For example, areas with high rainfall quantity, such as Eastern US or Pacific Northwest, typically have slightly to moderately acidic soil. It comes from leaching of the more alkaline calcium and magnesium salts from the soil.

There are plants that prefer this type of soil, so these plants will be found growing in soil with acidic levels in the pH range of 5 to 7.

On the other hand, areas with little to no rain (deserts being the most extreme) tend to be moderately to highly alkaline. Similarly to acidic-loving plants, there are plants preferring alkaline environment. They will be found in areas where soil is between 7 and 7.5.

Areas with light to moderate rainfall, such as central parts of the US, tend to have pH natural soil (around 7 on the pH scale).

To be sure of your soil’s pH values, it’s best to get a pH litmus test kit. It is not expensive and it makes it very easy for you to test the soil in your garden.

Get to Know the Weeds

Weeds are annoying, but they can tell you a lot about your garden. They can help you understanding what amendments you need to add to increase the fertility of your garden and make it harder for the weeds to survive. The less weeds the more space for your vegetables and other plants you wish to grow.

Keep in mind that the pH values affect weeds, too. For example, some weeds tend to grow anywhere: it doesn’t matter if the soil is fertile or non-fertile. As a result, you will find the same weeds in various soil types. Other weeds prefer certain pH values, so it’s something to keep in mind.

Photo credit: The corn is as high . . . via photopin (license)

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