What do you think about when you think of a healthy lawn? A lush, green carpet of grass that’s easy to maintain?
That’s what most gardeners expect. But without careful maintenance and healthy soil, your lawn can become a brown, patchy mess.
Most people don’t realize that their lawn’s health has a lot to do with the health of their soil.
In fact, an unhealthy lawn can be due to poor soil. If the earth beneath your grass is too compacted or too acidic, for example, it won’t be able to support a healthy root system. But if your soil is nutrient-rich and loose, then your grass will flourish!
In this article, I’ll show you how to create the best possible environment for your grass to grow, and stay green.
Table of Contents
- What is Healthy Soil?
- How Can You Tell if Your Soil is Healthy?
- Signs of Healthy Soil
- What are the Types of Soil?
- What is the Healthiest Type of Soil?
- How to Create Healthy Soil?
- Choosing the Best Lawn Soil Composition
- Maintaining Healthy Soil
What is Healthy Soil?
Healthy soil has good drainage and aeration. It should be well-drained so that excess water doesn’t collect in the soil, preventing plant roots from being drowned by the water.
It should also have good aeration, which means there are lots of tiny air pockets in the soil for oxygen to reach plant roots. Healthy grass requires a balance of air and moisture in order to thrive.
Healthy lawn soil also has nutrients that feed your lawn and encourage growth. The main nutrient all plants need is nitrogen (N).
Nitrogen helps produce leaves and stems, but it also contributes to root growth when applied at a high rate, especially during periods of rapid growth such as spring and fall when temperatures increase or decrease rapidly.
Phosphorus (P) promotes root growth and flowering, while potassium (K) helps strengthen cell walls for better overall health.
How Can You Tell if Your Soil is Healthy?
Healthy soil is dark in color, rich in nutrients, and full of life. It is a mixture of different particles and materials, such as sand, clay, silt, and organic matter. Healthy soil has good structure and drainage, which allows water to move through it freely.
The following are some signs that your soil may be unhealthy:
- Weeds and other pests are present in high numbers.
- You see a lot of bare spots in your lawn or garden.
- The leaves on your plants have yellowing edges or holes in them.
- There’s a definite lack of growth in your plants.
Signs of Healthy Soil
When you look at your soil, you should see earthworms moving around in it. Earthworms are great indicators of healthy soil because they are responsible for breaking down organic matter into small pieces that help the soil retain nutrients.
You may also see insects like ants or spiders crawling around on top of your lawn or garden bedding plants. These insects are beneficial because they help pollinate plants and eat harmful insects that can damage plants or crops.
If you notice a few weeds growing in your garden bedding plants or lawn, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – weeds help keep pest insects under control by competing with them for resources like water and nutrients.
What are the Types of Soil?
The different types of soil are determined by the amount and kind of organic matter present, the texture, and the structure. Soil may be classified as either mineral or organic; it is often a combination of both.
Mineral soils are composed of rocks and minerals, which have been changed by weathering processes. Most mineral soils occur over bedrock (the original rock) or over glacial deposits (layers of sediment left behind by glaciers). Mineral soils have little or no organic matter in them. They are generally less fertile than organic soils.
Organic soils are formed from the decomposition of plant materials, animal wastes, and other kinds of dead organisms. Organic matter is decomposed and converted into stable humus (a dark-colored substance that has lost its plant nutrients but still retains its ability to hold moisture).
Humus makes up about 4%–8% of all soil by volume in most places; it is usually much less than this near large cities because the large amounts of waste produced in cities make it difficult for organic matter to accumulate in those areas.
Soil is a mixture of minerals, organic matter, and water. It’s made up of particles that range in size from clay to sand.
The texture of the soil depends on the proportion of these different sizes. Clay soils have many small particles while sandy soils have few large particles.
Soil has three main functions:
- It provides support for plants
- It protects plants against droughts
- Stores nutrients for plant growth.
There are several ways to classify soils based on their texture, structure, and chemistry.
What is the Healthiest Type of Soil?
Healthy soil is the foundation of a healthy garden. It’s the living, breathing, nutrient-rich material that supports the growth of plants.
And while it may not be as glamorous as colorful flowers or fragrant herbs, it’s just as important to your garden’s success.
The best type of soil for your garden depends on what you’re growing and where you live. Different types of soil have different characteristics and require different care.
Some are sandy and well-drained, while others are clay-heavy and tend to retain moisture. Others are loamy, a combination of sand, silt, and clay, which makes them ideal for growing most vegetable plants.
The type you choose will depend on how much effort you want to put into caring for your garden.
How to Create Healthy Soil?
There are many ways to build healthy soil. Here are some of the most effective techniques:
- Add compost or composted manure. You can buy bags of composted manure at garden centers and home improvement stores, or make your own compost by mixing organic yard waste with leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and other organic matter.
- Add aged manure. This is sometimes called “aged” or “stabilized” because it has been stored for several weeks or months to kill weed seeds, disease organisms, and insects that may be present.
- Add lime for acid-loving plants like azaleas and blueberries. The addition of lime will raise the pH of your soil slightly, making it more alkaline (basic).
Choosing the Best Lawn Soil Composition
The best lawn soil is a combination of sand, silt, and clay. Sand adds drainage, silt helps retain moisture, and clay adds nutrients.
The problem with most garden centers is that they sell soil mixes that are pre-mixed with a certain amount of each ingredient.
They don’t sell pure sand or pure clay or pure silt, so you have to buy more than you need to cover your entire yard just so you can add the appropriate ingredients separately.
You can also buy bags of each ingredient separately, but it’s usually cheaper to buy the pre-mixed packs at the store, especially if you’re only doing a small section of your yard right now.
The easiest way to tell if your soil is too heavy or too light is to dig up some dirt from your yard or garden and pick out some stones from it. If there are no stones at all (or very few), then your soil is probably too light. If there are lots of stones mixed in with the dirt, then it’s probably too heavy.
Maintaining Healthy Soil
The soil under your lawn is the foundation of its health. Healthy soil provides food and shelter for the beneficial microorganisms that help keep your lawn healthy.
When you’re planning a new lawn, take time to prepare a healthy soil bed. For existing lawns, improve your soil by adding organic matter and aerating it to increase air and water movement through the root zone. The following tips will help you maintain healthy soil:
- Mow high enough so that grass blades are no longer than 3 inches long when they’re cut. Mowing too low can cause scalping and expose the root zone to sun, wind, and rain damage.
- Water deeply, but infrequently enough so that water penetrates into the root zone 1 inch deep. Watering more frequently will wash away nutrients from leaf litter on top of the ground, which reduces fertility and depletes moisture from deeper layers of soil. A soil moisture meter is best to check how much water is required.
- Remove weeds before they set seed because this reduces competition for nutrients with your grass plants.
Having the right kind of soil makes it much easier to maintain your lawn. Your plants will be healthier, and less disease-prone and your lawn will last longer with the right soil blend.
With a better understanding of soil and the effect that it has on our lawns, the grass we grow can be more colorful and beautiful. Research the type of soil in your area, follow the steps above for preparing your soil for planting, and enjoy watching your grass grow.