Want a beautiful landscape? Fix your soil first!

How do we begin every project to make sure your plants have a solid foundation? We work on building healthy soil. Just like the foundation of your home needs to be structurally solid to properly support the house, your soil needs to be rich and healthy to grow happy plants.

Good landscape design is, of course, all about making the most of the space you have: Choosing the right plants for the right place, creating privacy, and also places to entertain. But before we can do any of that, we have to make sure your soil can support the landscape of your dreams. While it can take years to create truly well-amended soil, there are steps that we take at the beginning of a landscape project, and continually as we maintain it, to get the most out of your soil.

What is soil?

It’s easy to think of soil as a “dead” inert matter that exists simply for us to walk on. But did you know that soil is really a dynamic, living system? Organisms like bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and worm-like microscopic nematodes live and enrich your soil.  In each teaspoon of healthy soil there are billions of living organisms. These living organisms break down organic matter such as dead plants, insects and animals, and make the remaining nutrients available to your plants. Healthy soil feeds healthy plants.

How do we heal the soil?

When soil needs rehabilitation, the best thing you can do for it is add organic matter.  We add compost, manure and worm castings to feed the microbes that live in our often compacted soils. Good microbial activity in your soil will not only help feed your plants, but also help to retain more consistent moisture in the summer. A bioactive soil will be better aerated and drain better. For lawns, aeration is a process that helps introduce more oxygen back to the root zone and loosen the soil.

Adding organic matter to your soil is not a one-time fix. Organic matter will break down in about 18-months, or less, which means you’ll need to refresh your landscape beds and raised beds seasonally. Amending shrub beds with compost in early spring or fall is always a good idea. If you grow vegetables in raised beds, you may need to add additional organic matter in both spring and fall as you change over your seasonal crops.

If I use compost do I still need to fertilize?

Be careful not to think of organic compost as a fertilizer, but rather a soil amendment. While compost will add food for the microbes and improve drainage over time, it doesn’t release nutrients quickly. Your soil also may not contain trace minerals your plants need. Plants often still need a quicker boost of nutrients in the form of an actual fertilizer. In order to provide complete nutrition for your plants, we recommend also adding a plant fertilizer for your lawn, shrubs and trees in spring and fall. Annual color and vegetables can be fertilized monthly depending on the crop.

Mulch too?

Once you’ve amended your soils with organic matter, it’s a good idea to top-dress your plants with mulch. Not only will mulch help conserve your irrigation water, but it will also insulate plant roots from extreme heat or cold. Over time, the mulch breaks down and adds organic matter to your soil. So again, you’ll need to refresh your mulch seasonally.

Unsure about the quality of your soil? A simple soil test sent off to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension service can let know what nutrients your soil is missing. Need help maintaining your landscape? We not only mow, trim and weed your landscape, but we offer spring and fall soil amendments, fertilization and clean up as well. Give us a call for a custom maintenance plan.