Let’s Talk About Soil

Let’s Talk About Soil

“The nation that destroys it’s soil destroys itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Those are wise words to live by. One of the best ways to keep your landscape plants healthy and thriving is to take care of your soil.

Sandy soils typical of Florida.

Healthy soil is a combination of solid particles, minerals, organic matter, water, and air. Healthy soil naturally provides a home for many types of living organisms and should be cherished in the landscape. In Pinellas County our soils tend to be neutral to slightly basic in pH with a very high percentage of sand.

Before you do any major landscaping, it is a good idea to have a soil test performed to give you a clear picture of what you’re planting in. When you have the results in hand, you can use this information to help you make informed decisions on which plants to use in your landscape.

The sandy soils found throughout Florida have very poor water and nutrient holding capacity due to their low organic matter content. The organic matter in soil is what holds water and nutrients applied to the landscape in place. Without this organic matter, soils are prone to nutrient leaching (washing of nutrients through the root zone into the aquifer below)

There are some ways to increase the organic matter in your soil that will greatly benefit your landscape. If you are planting a new garden bed, consider tilling some compost into the top 3-4″ of soil. This compost could be material that you produced yourself or a commercially available product.

If you have an existing landscape in place and want to add organic matter to your beds, maintaining a 3-4″ layer of organic mulch is your best option. Pinellas County offers free mulch for pickup at a variety of locations to help ease the financial cost associated with maintaining a consistent layer of mulch. This free mulch is generated from yard debris that is collected throughout the county. The mulch is heat treated to eliminate weed seeds, disease, and pests. 

A few months later, after your mulch has started to decompose, there is no need to remove the existing mulch. You can simply fluff it up with a stiff tined garden rake and then add additional mulch right on top.

Resources:

Soil Testing Information

http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/agriculture/soil_testing.shtml

Soils & Fertilizers for Master Gardeners: Soil Organic Matter and Organic Amendments

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg454

Pinellas County Free Mulch Pick Up Locations

http://www.pinellascounty.org/solidwaste/recycling-directory/pdf/mulch.pdf