The Guild Report:  
Remedies for Poor Soil 
August 2012 
In This Issue
Point of View
Rebuilding Soil

Point of View  
With Employee Owner
Kip Matthews
Operations Manager, Construction Division 


"It's my belief that any successful endeavor is derived from a group of people working harmoniously together.  This collaborative spirit is reflected in every one of our construction projects. Relationships, at all levels, are essential."
Kip has been with Gardeners' Guild since 1989. He has oversight responsibility for construction, installation, renovation; landscape design and has a hands-on approach.  



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We receive calls from many people who believe their property has bad soil. After probing a bit, we usually learn that their plants are stressed, their soil is compacted or that someone else has told them their soil is poor.


It's a good guess that the two former attributes do mean poor soil. And, there are a few guidelines to tell if your soil is poor:
  • Your soil is dried and cracked in the summer
  • Digging holes is difficult whether or not it is wet or dry
  • Water tends to pool on the surface, then drains very slowly or runs off the surface
  • Leaves are yellow and have brown dead sections 
Many of the above symptoms are due to a lack of soil organic matter. You can tell if your soil has this deficit by looking at its color.  Soil with enough humus and water will be dark.
What is humus, you say?  It is the foundation of healthy, living soil  It is formed by the decomposition of vegetable (plants; leaves) and animal matter and provides nutrients for plants.
Allowing leaves to dry and decompose in your garden rather than disposing of them is one easy practice which will help improve the health of your soil.  Read on for more tips. 



All the best,
Suzanne Harris

Rebuilding Your Soil



In healthy soil there exists a complex structure of mutually beneficial organisms.  In fact, a teaspoon of healthy soil is teaming with four billion different species or organisms.  When this soil food web population is out of balance, plants suffer.

Two words - organic matter.  And,it will take time. There are no quick fixes to rebuilding your soil.  But, if you practice some of the following you will begin to rebuild your soil.  




Tree service mulch is free, attractive and provides organic matter.  After trees are trimmed, the branches and brush are run through a grinding machine and chipped into small wood chips.  The resulting mulch is a combination of wood chips and leaves.  This gradually breaks down and adds nutrients to the soil.  It also helps the soil to hold water, keeps it cool in the summer; it slows erosion, helps reverse compaction and reduces weed growth.  



Compost can be purchased or you can make your own out of kitchen scraps and yard trimmings.  Avoid meat, eggs or dairy. Apply your compost with the least disturbance, on top of soil and simply plant into it. Compost will will improve soil structure, increase its ability to hold moisture.  It will also provide aeration and nitrogen. 


Organic Soil Amendments  

We recommend using 100% worm castings as a top dressing (this can be covered with mulch).  Worm castings are odorless and have the appearance of coffee grounds.  They impart a slow release of nutrients, increase soil water holding properties and increases plants' immunity to disease.


Compost Tea - a liquid microbial inoculant provides essential nutrients for the soil and is derived from worm castings.  It is also rich in plant extracts and sea kelp.  In addition to providing the above mentioned benefits, compost tea also reduces germination time, promotes vigorous plant growth and increases drought resistance. It can be sprayed directly on plants or on soil.  (the video to the left is a demonstration of spraying compost tea) 


Avoid Excessive Digging

Unfortunately, every time the soil is disturbed through digging or excessive foot traffic it damages the delicate soil structure.  It limits a plant's roots access to nutrients, air and water.


Limit or Eliminate the use of Pesticides or Synthetic Fertilizers 

A note about synthetics - they will help keep plants green and blooming but only a small percentage is actually used by the plants.  They can leach from the soil into ground water.  They also don't feed the soil, they feed the plant, and its nutrients are insufficient for soil health over the long term.   


Our LivingSolutions program is a comprehensive approach to soil health and incorporates all of the above for our maintenance and construction projects.  For more information, see our website or the short video to your left. 


Looking for extra LEED points?

If you are interested in leveraging an organic landscape management program for extra LEED credits, we have developed a list of recommendations that could help.

Click for more information