The Best Things You Can Do for Your Garden Soil

A beautiful garden requires a solid foundation, but achieving healthy, nutrient-dense soil takes time and effort. Here are 10 smart practices for making your garden soil the best it can be.

  1. Add Mulch

    Mulch Your Garden

    Mulch helps your soil retain moisture, prevents compaction, and discourages weeds. The material also breaks down over time, adding beneficial nutrients to your soil. Whether you mulch with wood chips, leaves, pine needles, or another organic material, the effort will keep your garden healthy throughout the growing season.

    Related: 10 Secret Ingredients to Make Your Garden Grow

  2. Plant Cover Crops

    Plant Cover Crops in Garden

    Once peak growing season ends in late summer, gardeners should plant a cover crop to build better soil. Cover crops like legumes, annual ryegrass, alfalfa, and buckwheat grow throughout the fall and winter, adding nutrients to the soil, improving drainage, and reducing soil compaction. Mow them before they go to seed, and turn the soil over in the springtime before planting again. 

    Related: 19 "Zero Dollar" Garden Hacks

  3. Compost

    How to Compost

    There’s a reason many gardeners swear by composting: the nutrient-dense organic material is a boon for soil health. To get started on your own composting program, collect your yard and kitchen waste in an enclosed container and turn it regularly. Then, in six months to a year, start adding it to the soil as you plant. You can also use compost to top dress plants later in the season for an extra boost of nutrients.

    Related: 7 Times to Throw Garbage in Your Garden

  4. Add Organic Materials

    Organic Materials in Garden

    Consider adding organic materials, such as manure, compost, bone meal, or fish emulsion, to your soil. They will enrich the soil, creating a fertile base for all your landscaping plants, vegetables, and flowers.

    Related: 25 Plants for Your Easiest Garden Ever

  5. Avoid Landscaping Fabric

    Should You Use Landscaping Fabric?

    Landscaping fabric is commonly used to prevent weeds; however, many gardeners don’t realize that it leads to soil compaction. What’s more, landscaping fabric forces beneficial critters like worms to leave your garden for more hospitable territory. Try controlling weeds with newspaper or another permeable, biodegradable material instead, because it will eventually decompose and add nutrients to your soil.

    Related: 14 Totally Free Ways to Start Your Own Garden

  6. Improve Ventilation

    Soil Ventilation

    Compacted soil impedes root growth and deprives roots of oxygen, so make sure your soil has proper ventilation. Prevent compaction by stirring your soil with a garden fork or tiller each year before planting. This will also improve water drainage around the roots of your plants.

    Related: 10 Ways to Buy Your Garden on the Internet

  7. Avoid Walking on Soil

    Can You Walk on Garden Soil?

    Heavy footsteps can cause soil compaction, so gardeners should make a walking path through their beds. This will protect the soil around plants from compaction, thus ensuring proper water flow and root growth.

    Related: The Best Places to Buy Plants Online

  8. Stay Away from Broad-Spectrum Pesticides

    Best Pesticide for Garden

    Grubs and insects can wreak havoc in a garden, so you may be tempted to battle them with a broad-spectrum pesticide. Don't give in to the temptation! These pesticides will kill everything around—even the good guys like worms and ladybugs that help maintain well-balanced soil.

    Related: 10 Plants to Grow for a Pest-Proof Yard

  9. Add the Right Amendments

    Amendments for Garden Soil

    Different types of soil require different amendments. For example, if you have alkaline soil and want to grow blueberries, add an amendment like peat moss to lower the pH. If your soil is too acidic, you can raise the pH by adding an alkaline element like lime. Understanding how these amendments will affect your soil will help your plants to thrive.

    Related: 10 Ways to Weather-Proof Your Garden

  10. Test the Soil

    How to Test Soil

    You won’t know what’s going on with your soil if you don’t test it. Fortunately, soil testing kits are inexpensive, easy to use, and available at most home improvement stores. Arming yourself with information about your soil’s organic makeup will help you choose the right methods to improve it, year after year.

    Related: 20 Ways to Garden Without a Backyard

  11. Stellar Soil

    Stellar Soil

    Great soil is the foundation for a great yard.

  12. Don't Miss!


    With a pinch of effort and almost no upkeep, you can have the lush, beautiful garden of your dreams. The secret is to choose plant varieties that enjoy a little hardship. We’ve compiled the essential list of hardy flora, with tips for care and maintenance. Go now!