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Home & Garden

Improving Your Garden Soil

March 19, 2022

The world of gardening is packed with experts, from family members who grow amazing carrots to researchers who use scientific principles to produce better strawberries and rhubarb. Those pros all say that the right soil makes a huge difference. Thanks to research done by the gardening experts with Washington State University Extension and Oregon State University Extension Service, we’ve put together some tips on improving your Northwest garden soil for better results.

What is Good Soil

According to Washington State University’s Home Vegetable Gardening in Washington (which applies throughout the Northwest), good garden soil should “allow water to enter and excess water to drain from the root zone.” Air, water, and nutrients should be held in the soil so that plants and microorganisms can get what they need to survive and flourish. When they do, the bounty is incredible.

How does your garden soil stack up? Consider amending your soil with a rich, compost material if your soil shows any of these symptoms:

  • Cracked and dry in the summer
  • Hard to dig whether it’s wet or dry
  • Plants wilt excessively in hot weather (even with adequate water)
  • Leaves turn yellow or brown
  • You find dead sections on the south side of many plants

Use Your Senses

Good soil should be dark in color. It should also not puddle water, but instead, allow water down into the ground. Additionally, good soil will feel crumbly when you move it through your fingers. When it feels right, worms, water, roots and air can all live in harmony. Finally, your soil should smell right. If there is a funk in your soil, it’s likely because there is not enough air.

Making Positive Changes

Improving Garden Soils with Organic Matter from OSU, as well as Back Yard Composting from WSU, state that adding nutrients as well as air to your soil is a matter of working in the right amendments, which can include simple compost materials.

Using your own compost, buying bags of good-smelling earth, or buying it by the cubic yard are often the best ways to quickly amend your soil for fast results. However, you might need quite a bit of it. For a space of 200 square feet and a desired depth of 2 inches of amended materials, you’d need 1.2 cubic yards of soil. Oregon State University Extension Service has put together the following quick reference chart:

Adding soil to your garden can be done by hand with a pitchfork, with a shovel, or rototiller. Experts warn that if you use a rototiller, not to overdo it as this can affect your soil structure, minimizing its air capacity.

Great Gardens Start at Coastal

You’ll find everything you need for your garden at your West-Coast owned and operated Coastal. Stop by for bags of enriched soil, fertilizer, seeds, starts, hoses, gardening tools, and all the free advice you could ever need. While you’re there, be sure to check out our full line of grills and equipment so you can make dinner while you watch your garden grow.