Update on Edmonds
By Jennifer Leach, Environmental Education and Sustainability Coordinator
Department of Parks, Recreation, and Culture

gardeningAs spring continues to bring wet weather, it’s hard to imagine that the dry season is just around the corner. Gloves in hand, enthusiastic gardeners head outside to tackle their first tasks of the new season. There’s so much to do, but where should you start? From the ground up, of course! Building healthy garden soil is the foundation of creating sustainable landscapes that ensure plants stay strong and healthy without using pesticides or fertilizers that can wreak havoc on the environment.

Soil is a living system with many parts, including rock-derived minerals such as sand and clay, air, water, and organic matter. Organic matter helps soils retain water, deliver nutrients to plant roots, and provides habitat for soil-enriching organisms to thrive. When we harvest, weed, or rake our gardens, we remove organic material that would otherwise feed the soil, upsetting the natural cycle of soil regeneration and throwing our soils out of balance.

humus compostAdding humus-rich compost is a great way to get your garden soil back into balance. How much compost you need will depend on the characteristics of your soil. Light-colored soil doesn’t contain as much organic matter as dark brown or black soil. If you have light colored soils, you’ll want to add about 4-6 inches of compost and dig it into the existing soil to a depth of 6 to 12 inches. If your soil is compacted and poorly drained, you’ll need to break up the soil to loosen it first before turning in your compost.

To make your soil even more water smart, add a 2-3 inch layer of mulch. Mulch is any material that is laid over soil in order to reduce soil evaporation, prevent weeds, and/or regulate temperature. Common organic mulches include bark, straw, wood chips, or leaves. All of these will decay over time, adding even more organic matter to the soil.
So take some time this spring to set your plants up for success by creating healthy soils that can nourish them during the dry season ahead. You’ll water less, save time and money, and your plants will thrive!

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