Soil is the gardener’s bread and butter, much like the dough is for the chef. Without good soil all the effort in the world can come to naught, just as poor dough can lay to waste even the most extravagant culinary effort. Soil varies by area into three broad categories, and also varies in quality from area to area. The categories that soil falls into are claylike, sandy and silt. Ideal soil contains a good mixture of the three types, and is called good garden loam. Clay soil possesses the greatest water-holding capability, while sandy soil possesses the least.
Humus is an organic substance that helps bind soils together. It also makes the soil more receptive to water, actively absorbs light from the sun and fertilizes and improves the texture of the soil by pulling beneficial compounds from plants. Humus can be found in organic fertilizers such as manure and compost heaps, and can also be purchased as a stand-alone product.
Like the grass, trees and plants that take root in it, soil is a living thing, composed of millions of organisms. The four key ingredients needed to maintain an optimum soil health are sunlight, water, food and bacterial activity. Save for the sun, the other three elements can all be added to the soil through organic fertilizers.
Many people maintain a compost pile at their residence, some with the express purpose of using it as fertilizer, and the benefits of doing so are enormous. To keep a quality compost pile, the bottom of the container must first have a layer of inactive material added to it, such as dried leaves or weeds, followed by a thin layer of soil, then another layer of material, and so on. After decomposition has reached a suitable point, the compost can then be added to the soil.
This compost or another organic fertilizer like manure can then be added to an inorganic fertilizer if desired to make an ideal meal for your soil. Organic fertilizers come with ratings that designate the parts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that they contain, and this knowledge is important based on your soil and environment type.
For large fields, planting certain cover crops can also have the effect of fertilizing the soil organically. Cover crops are an easy way to fertilize large stretches of land, though it will take a full season before their full effect is realized. Alfalfa, soybeans, legumes and other similar crops have the effect of adding nitrogen to the soil when planted, and also provide a boost of nitrogen when plowed over. Nitrogen levels of these cover crops are at their peak just before maturity, and should be plowed over at that point for optimal results.
Another effective means of fertilizing soil is by mixing an either an organic or an inorganic compound with a dose of water and then adding it to the soil. This provides even distribution of the fertilizer and promotes quicker absorption. Another method is to spread the fertilizer by hand (please use gloves when spreading manure) and then hose down the lawn or relevant area afterwards.
In areas with less calcium-rich soil like the Atlantic Coast, you should consider using lime to offset this deficiency. Pulverized limestone, which is high in organic materials can be used sparingly for this purpose.
By knowing your soil type and quality, you can take the measures necessary to ensure it achieves the right levels of nutrients and elements needed to survive, important in any tropical landscape plan which will further ensure the survival of anything else growing in it.