Soil is remarkably dynamic and incredibly diverse, made up of not only mineral matter, but organic matter, water and air as well. Soils in the Niagara Region are a mineral-rich mix of sand, gravel, loam and clay which at times can be challenging for home gardeners. While some parts of the region that are rich in loam are a gardener’s dream – those areas with heavy dense clay can be frustrating for even the most dedicated of horticulturalists.

So depending on where you live in the region, your efforts will vary on how much attention you need to pay to your home garden soils, but there are some general techniques that will create a natural haven for all of your favourite fruits, vegetables and flower beds.

1. Minimize compaction
Compacted soil inhibits root development so it is important to always work soil by digging in. You can also prevent soil compaction by sizing your garden beds so you can reach into all areas without stepping on the soil. Walking on any soil regularly compresses it and prevents water, air, and oxygen from reaching the roots. Instead, establish permanent garden beds with walking paths so you can avoid walking on the soil.

2. Add organic matter
Adding peat, compost, manure or leaf clippings to your soil will make your garden more hospitable to a wider range of plants. Compost is a must–it will improve your soil immediately and introduce microorganisms that will continue improving your soil by further breaking down organic matter. Add as much as you possibly can; it really is nearly impossible to overdo it with compost. All of it will help your garden’s soil by increasing fertility, water retention, and improving texture.

3. Mulch is a must 
Consider adding mulch to all of your garden beds to promote healthy soil and strong plants; it stimulates natural growing conditions, retains soil moisture, keeps soil cool, and prevents weed growth. The mulch will also slowly decompose and add organic matter to the soil to increase fertility. And there are a wide range of mulches from which to choose, with the added benefit of a clean visual appeal for any garden bed.

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