Creating healthy soil

Why is healthy soil important for your plants and how can you tell if it is healthy? What is compost and why is it important? Can you make a worm farm and what can you use it for? Find out all the answers below.

Like all living things, plants need a healthy environment to live and grow. For gardeners, healthy plants start with healthy soil. You can improve the health of your soil with compost, or the products created by a worm farm.

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Soil

Why is healthy soil important for your plants?

Soil

To grow healthy plants you must first have healthy soil. Plants get the nutrients that they need to grow from soil. Without healthy soil, plants will not develop properly and neither will fruit and vegetables. Healthy soil also helps protect your plants from disease.

How can we tell if soil is healthy?

You can tell if soil is healthy simply by looking at it. Healthy soil should be full of life. Have a dig around the soil and see if you can see worms, bugs or other animals. Do the plants growing in the soil look healthy?

Aside from observing the soil, you can check your soil’s health by conducting different experiments and tests. For example, you can do a soil pH test to find out if the soil pH is too acidic or too alkaline. Healthy plants rely on drawing important nutrients through their roots, and if the soil pH isn’t suitable for the type of plants you want to grow, your plants will miss out on these nutrients.

Compost

What is compost and why is it important?

Compost

Compost is a dark brown, sweet-smelling material. It is important for healthy plants because it contains most of the soil’s nitrogen, and all of the minerals that plants, animals and humans need for good health. The process of decomposition occurs naturally on the forest floor or in a paddock. However, gardeners and farmers speed up this process by placing organic matter in controlled warm, moist, dark and airy conditions to create their own compost.

What can be composted and how can we make our own?

All types of organic matter can be composted. Organic matter is made up of things that are alive, were once alive or have come from something that is or was once alive.

To make good compost you will need a mix of four main ingredients:

  • dry leaves and paper, otherwise known as carbon material
  • grass clippings and food scraps, otherwise known as nitrogen material
  • water, and
  • air.

Compost can be made in all sorts of containers. When composting, it is important to remember to position your compost out of the full sun, ensure your compost container has a cover, and make sure it is easily accessible for adding food scraps and turning the compost materials over.

Worms

Can I make my own worm farm?

Worms

Anyone can keep their own worm farm. A worm farm is a small container that houses worms and is an excellent way to recycle organic waste, and make organic fertiliser for your garden. They make fascinating pets too! You can feed them lunch scraps, lawn cuttings, newspaper and weeds, which they process to create worm castings and worm tea. Worms do not like very hot weather, so you need to keep your worm farm in a shady area, but make sure they do not get too cold either.

What are worm castings and worm tea?

Put simply, worm castings and worm tea are worm manure. This might sound a little gross, but they are excellent foods for your garden. Worm castings are the nice rich soil that is left behind after a worm eats your food scraps (and other organic material). Worm tea is a dark brown liquid which is created when worm castings are dissolved in water. Both should be added to your garden regularly.