How to make fertile soil

Written by Goh Shang Ming

From sowing seeds to pulling weeds, gardening is extremely beneficial to our health and wellbeing. As gardening is an everyday activity, this unique form of regular exercise helps keep us fit and healthy. Moreover, research shows that getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels. To simply put it, soil contains a natural antidepressant that can make us happy. Undoubtedly, gardening can bring joy and fulfilment to your life.

Before you spring into action, you must first ensure your garden bed is healthy or in other words, fertile.

Soil is the foundation of your garden as it stores and provides essential nutrients, water and air to support plant growth.

Thus, planting in a garden with infertile soil would result in disappointment, putting your efforts in vain as soil of low quality is incapable of sustaining plant growth. An easy sign to look out for in identifying healthy soil is the presence of underground animal activity, specifically earthworms. The presence of these little creatures indicate a healthy soil system. Additionally, soil that is rich in organic matter tends to be dark brown or black in colour. However, if the soil that you are working with has little to no life in it and looks more like dirt, fret not! Here are some tips on how to make fertile soil.

Earthworm is an ecosystem engineer which modifies soil structure

Before making fertile soil, we must first understand what makes an ideal rooting environment. Roots are described as the lifeline of a plant, not only do they anchor the plant in place, resisting the forces of nature and other environmental stresses, they too play an important role in the uptake of nutrients. With that being said, soil requires a balanced combination of water, air and nutrients to become a rich growing environment. Soils of high quality would promote the growth of a strong root structure, keeping the plant above nice and sturdy. 

First off, add 2 to 3 inches of compost to the top 6 inches of the soil. Compost, sometimes referred to as “black gold” by gardeners, is decomposed organic material containing basic nutrients needed by plants for growth. Some examples of compostable material include leaves, grass clippings, and even plant-based food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds and bread. The addition of compost also keeps the soil at a light and fluffy texture, helping it retains its moisture. 

Learn how to make compost here: How to make compost

We can make use of food waste to make compost

Maintaining the right consistency of soil is a critical part of your gardening success. Avoid compacting soil with heavy equipment as well as stepping directly in the growing beds. If your soil is compacted, it would be difficult for water and air to move freely through the pore spaces to the roots. On the other hand, if your soil is too loose, it cannot hold water, ultimately drying out your plants. By adding compost to your soil, not only does it adds organic matter, it too helps maintain the ideal soil consistency. 

Final tip in making fertile soil is to mulch your garden. Mulching is the process of covering the open surface of the ground using mulch, for example – shredded bark, animal manure, stones, etc. Mulches can either be organic or inorganic. The mulch applied on the top layer of the soil helps retain moisture in soil by trapping surface water of the soil that would otherwise get evaporated quickly. Furthermore, weeds are also suppressed in the process as the mulch blocks and prevents sunlight from reaching them, minimising competition with the plant. If organic mulch such as decaying leaves or bark are used, your soil would be further enriched with nutrients and organic matter, boosting its fertility.

Mulch helps to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature

 Starting your own garden may seem like an immense responsibility. However, once the flowers blossom and produce ready to harvest, it will be truly rewarding not only for you but for our planet.