Hands holding soil and a small seedling

Build a Strong Foundation for Your Garden By Focusing on Soil

Many people give little thought to the soil under their feet. It’s just dirt, after all. But gardeners know that healthy soil is essential to healthy plants. If you’re looking to up your gardening game this year, invest in your soil.

“Healthy soil can be the difference between success and failure in the garden,” says David Cole, Learning Lab manager and adjunct instructor of horticulture at Tarrant County College Northwest Campus. “If you do everything else right but leave your plants to grow in depleted soil, your garden will never live up to its potential. On the other hand, if you create a rich, healthy place for your plants to grow, you’re ahead of the game.”

Healthy soil provides both water and air to the roots of a plant. It contains essential nutrients that the plant needs to thrive. It improves drainage in our heavy, clay soils and is easier for gardeners to work.

Unhealthy soil, in contrast, can become compacted so that roots cannot penetrate it. It lacks nutrients, so the growth of plants is stunted, and it is hard to dig or turn.

Soil Building and Health
Feb. 19, 9 – 11 am

Cole will discuss simple ways to assess your existing soil and site conditions, so you know what you’re working with and have a clear idea where your soil needs improvement. He’ll then explore ways you can improve your soil.

“Organic matter is key!” says Cole. The organic matter found in soil is made up decomposing materials such as leaves, stems and manure and is rich in living organisms including bacteria, fungi, worms and beetles. “Organic matter increases the microbial activity in soil, creating a healthy ecosystem for plants. It also improves the structure of the soil while providing for better drainage and aeration—two of the biggest challenges for North Texas gardeners.”

If you can only do one thing to improve your soil, Cole advises, “Add large amounts of cheap, locally sourced organic matter.” Don’t be stingy—up to one quarter of your soil should be organic matter. On the other hand, there’s no need to spend a lot of money. Look for cheap—or free!—supplies of mulch and compost. For example, the City of Fort Worth offers free mulch at its Drop-Off Stations. Bring your own container and shovel.

Some hard work in winter and early spring will pay off later with bigger blooms, healthier plants and a richer harvest, says Cole, adding, “When you improve your soil, you’re making a long-term investment in your garden.”

Related Articles

Goache painting of a Lemon by Olivia Garcia-Hassell
Learn

Explore Gouache for a More Creative New Year

Artistic creation can lighten your spirit and restore your soul. It’s easy to forget this truth in the hustle and bustle of every day life, but it’s worth remembering and exploring. If you’re looking to be a more centered, whole and creative person in 2023, consider trying Creative Art with Olivia.

Read More »
Orange blooms on a begonia against dark green leaves
Garden

Begonias Brighten January Days with Winter Blooms and Amazing Variety

Midwinter is a quiet time outside in the Garden, with most plants dormant until the days grow longer. But in the greenhouses devoted to the Garden’s Begonia Collection, excitement is growing as these remarkable plants get ready to bloom. Learn more about the incredible variety of begonias and get started growing your own.

Read More »
Dog Days
Engage

Dog Days Returns in 2023 for More Tail Wags and Nose Boops

Dog Days was introduced in 2022 and has been a howling success for canine fur babies and their human companions. This year, the Garden is expanding the program to one weekend a month, allowing pooches and their favorite people more opportunities to frolic on the grounds.

Read More »
Newsletter

Herbarium Reaches Transcription Milestone with 52,000-plus Specimens Fully Digitized

The herbarium is the heart of research at the Garden. A major priority of the herbarium is to digitize the collection by photographing the specimens and transcribing the related information recorded by botanists. Staff and volunteers made significant strides in reaching this goal last year. “The herbarium ended 2022 with complete transcriptions of 52,674 specimens,” says Herbarium Collections Manager Ashley Bordelon.

Read More »
Newsletter

FWBG Experts and Volunteers Digitize Records of Renowned Botanist in Cutting-Edge Project

Botanist Sherwin Carlquist (1930-2021) was a legend in his field, a prolific researcher who made major contributions to plant systematics, plant anatomy, island biology and wood anatomy. He traveled the world collecting plant specimens, photographing plants in the field and collecting data about ecosystems. Hard work by our experts and volunteers means scientists interested in studying Carlquist’s work will soon have a new type of digital resource giving them unprecedented context for his findings: an extended specimen network. Assuming, that is, that they can decipher Carlquist’s handwriting. 

Read More »