Regenerate Your Soil

Quick tips for building healthy soil

Rubber boots standing in healthy soil with shovel

At Gardener's Supply, we believe that healthy soils are the foundation for healthy gardens, healthy people, and a healthy planet. To that end, we've been inspiring and educating gardeners about how to care for and improve their soil since our first day in business.

The practice of building healthy soil isn't new. Generations ago, farmers and gardeners took care of their soil because they had to. Since synthetic fertilizers didn't exist, gardeners had to make sure the soil itself could provide plants with the nutrients they needed.

Bringing Dead Soil Back to Life

With the advent of fast-acting chemical fertilizers, the laborious practices of spreading manure and compost, growing cover crops, and crop rotation fell by the wayside. Decades of neglect left many soils essential dead — depleted of nutrients and void of the complex web of life in a healthy soil ecosystem.

The term "soil regeneration" simply refers to the practice of building (or rebuilding) healthy soil. Fortunately, there are ways to bring soil back to life, and to continually nurture the underground ecosystem — plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, etc. — that keep the above-ground ecosystem thriving (the video below explains how).

What is Healthy Soil?

Healthy soil also contains lots of carbon, in decaying organic matter, roots, and, especially in humus. Humus is fully decomposed organic matter that contains a very stable form of carbon. It essentially locks the carbon into the soil so it can't escape into the atmosphere to form carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. That means that the act of building healthy soil can play a major role in mitigating climate change.

We gardeners have vital role in this process. Collectively our patches of healthy garden soil can store huge amounts of carbon. Each of us can — and must! —play a role in building healthy soil if we hope to leave future generations with a healthy planet.

How to Build Healthy Soil

Compost: Compost keeps your kitchen and garden waste out of landfills, which produce not only carbon dioxide, but also methane — a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide. Plus, compost increases the biological activity, fertility and water-holding capacity of your garden. 

Mulch: Natural mulch (not black the synthetic black plastic kind used to prevent weeds) like shredded bark, leaves, straw, and wood chips can do A LOT for regenerating depleted soil. When layered on top of a bed, mulch adds carbon back into the soil, prevents topsoil loss from erosion, and helps soil conserve moisture. Planting cover crops as a "living mulch" can help regerenate depleted soil, as well. When grown in poor, clay soils, cover crops utilize space that would not otherwise be productive. Over time, these otherwise not productive spaces can become incredibly productive as the soil biome matures. Some of our favorite cover crops are: winter rye, buckwheat, peas, clover, and borage.

Use organic fertilizers (instead of synthetic): Organic fertilizers are made from naturally occurring mineral deposits and organic material, such as bone or plant meal or composted manure. Synthetic fertilizers are made by chemically processing raw materials. In general, the nutrients in organic fertilizers are not water-soluble and are released to the plants slowly over a period of months or even years. These organic fertilizers stimulate beneficial soil microorganisms and improve the structure of the soil. Soil microbes play an important role in converting organic fertilizers into soluble nutrients that can be absorbed by your plants. In most cases, organic fertilizers and compost will provide all the secondary and micronutrients your plants need.


Last updated: 07/17/2023