How Soil Health Can Change California

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21 October, 2021

Soil health might not be on your mind, but it is something that affects all Californians. With a rise in wildfires across the state, critical topsoil gets covered with ash. This ash will then create deadly landslides when the rain comes. With healthier soil, the roots dig deep into the Earth, more micro biodiversity thrives, and more water gets absorbed into the soil. In turn, our water tables rise, natural aqueducts are refilled, and plants thrive. Soil health is an integral part of a better, wetter California, and it can start directly in your backyard! Learn how you can help your state, your planet, and your backyard all at once.


Start by identifying what type of soil your home is blessed with. California is home to four main types of soil listed below. When you are able to categorize your soil, you can then properly plant according to needs as well as bring your soil to its optimal health.


FOUR TYPES OF SOIL

Sandy soil: light, dry, warm, low in nutrients, and often acidic

Silty soil: fertile, easily compacted, and light but moisture-retentive

Clay soil: heavy, high in nutrients, wet and cold in winter, and baked dry in the summer

Loamy soil: a combination of sand, clay, and silt


pH Levels


Crucial to healthy soil, if your pH levels are out of balance it can lead to a whole host of problems. You will be unable to grow healthy, thriving plants. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with most plants' ideal growing conditions hovering around 6.5. Start by finding out your soil’s level. You can send it in for laboratory testing or use this easy at-home test kit. Once you are able to identify the pH, you can work to move your soil into the ideal range. 


Too acidic- A pH score of 5 or below. Change your soil’s composition by adding:

-limestone

-Wood ash

-Well broken down compost


Too alkaline- This is any pH score higher than 7. An excellent way to lower the pH of small beds or garden areas is the addition of one or more of these organic materials:

-Sulfur

-Peat Moss

-Composted wood or sawdust


Microorganisms


Home gardeners often forget that soil should be alive. This means that living microorganisms need to thrive in your soil in order for your crops to do the same! These organisms help to break down and distribute nutrients to your plants, balance pH levels, and help mineralization occur. To build up the microscopic population in your soil follow these tips:

Add living matter- compost is wonderful for creating the right competition of bacteria that can help your soil thrive

Stay off- try to keep your soil aerated by not walking across the garden beds. Raised garden beds are great for this purpose, they allow you to reach in without any damage. 

Avoid chemicals- While they will quickly kill weeds, they do the same to this population underground. Here are some great natural tips that can help keep pests at bay in your garden.


While most home gardeners don’t think of fall as the prime season to plant, you can start this journey to healthy soil ASAP. Depending on your personal soil, you may need many months to fix the damage. Remember that healthy soil does more than grow delicious produce, it also helps to keep your water table healthy, prevents drought and mudslides. So whatever your reason, go forth and dig!

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