Healthy, loose soil is the basis for a smart garden or lawn. Watch our smart soils webinar or view the resources below to get started.
Test your soil
A soil test is the best way to learn what the pH of your soil is and what fertilizer it needs. Do not add lime unless recommended by soil tests results. If you suspect your soil is contaminated from something that was there prior to your garden, test for contaminants before growing anything you eat.
- Get your Home Lawn and Garden Soil test self-mailer today. The process is simple.
- See our tip sheet on how to soil test: Don’t guess - soil test.
- View video on soil testing
Build your soils
Smart soil is the key to healthy plants and a successful garden. If you have limited money or time, put your resources into improving your soil. This will make all other gardening tasks easy.
- How to achieve healthy soil
- Video on how to have healthy, smart soil
- Soil basics: types, texture and structure
Prepare your soil for planting
On a day that hasn’t had any rain, pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it. If the soil falls out in pieces, it is dry enough to dig. If it stays in a mud ball, it is too wet, so try again tomorrow.
Remove all weeds, sod, trash and rocks. If you have a lot of weeds, lay plastic down on the soil for a few weeks before you plant. That will kill the weeds without any harmful side-effects.
Apply compost, fertilizer and any soil amendments suggested by a soil test before tilling. Turn over or till your soil to a depth of 8-12 inches.
- Composting: A smart gardening practice to recycle garden and yard waste
- Applying fertilizers to enhance nutrient growth
- How to reduce phosphorus in soils
- Tips for improving your soil
Don’t compact your soil
Do not walk or operate heavy equipment over wet soil. Soils often remain cold, wet and heavy late into spring. Digging in those conditions further compacts the soil and creates a solid mass where new roots cannot grow. Consider gardening in a raised bed if your soil is heavy, compacted or contaminated.
Work compost into your garden soil every year
Adding compost is beneficial for almost all soils. Compost or decomposed organic matter makes soils alive and fertile. Compost must be added every year because your plants use up all the nutrients.
- Compost benefits and use
- Video on backyard compost tips
- Video on proper backyard composting
- Video on alternatives to large compost
Layer 2-3 inches of mulch in your garden
Natural mulches such as wood chips can prevent weeds, conserve water and moderate soil temperatures.
October 24, 2012 | Beth Clawson | Composting instead of burning provides many benefits for you and your environment.
September 20, 2012 | Beth Clawson | Developing food waste reduction habits and composting can reduce food waste, save money, conserve resources and produce a valuable soil additive for your gardens.
September 17, 2012 | Gretchen Voyle | What every homeowner should know about topsoil.
September 7, 2012 | Bob Bricault | Fall aeration improves growing conditions to develop a healthier stand of grass.
August 2, 2012 | Gretchen Voyle | Here’s how basic gardening tools will help you get your garden through this dry spell.
July 24, 2012 | William Carpenter | Emmet county recycling serves four northwest Lower Michigan counties and several communities. Recycling is an effective limiter of greenhouse gas emissions.
July 24, 2012 | Bindu Bhakta | Following these four simple steps will help you determine what kind of fertilizer you need for your lawn and garden – if any – and how much.
July 13, 2012 | Howard Russell | Despite their large size and fierce appearance, it is easy to get along with cicada killers.
July 5, 2012 | Bindu Bhakta | Online calculator conveniently determines the exact area of lawn or garden, saving you money and protecting the environment from over-fertilization.
June 7, 2012 | Beth Clawson | Follow these quick tips to keep your compost working at optimum levels all summer long.
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