If you want to grow healthy plants, then you’re going to need healthy soil. While many plants have differing needs, most plants like a rich, friable, crumbly soil- one that’s not too sandy and not too heavy with clay. Annual plants, like vegetables, are especially hungry and thirsty plants, so it’s important that your soil can also provide food and water for successful crops.
A “good” soil is known in the horticultural trade as “loam.” You can tell if it’s good by using some sensory tests, your own five senses will determine if it’s okay.
The Sensory Test
First have a look at your soil. It should be a dark brown colour to indicate that there’s plenty of humus in it. Humus is the end product of decomposed compost and organic material. This is the life and the food for your plants to feed on. If it looks pale then there’s not enough life in your soil.
Now smell your soil. It should have a good clean earthy smell, not sour or stale. If you soil smells off and repulsive then it’s a good sign that it’s gone anaerobic, lacking any oxygen. This is usually because the soil is too wet, indicating that you have a drainage problem.
Your soil should have good water holding capacity while allowing any excess water from heavy rains to drain away quickly. Puddles of water in the garden that don’t drain away quickly will be a sign of poor drainage. You’ll need to address drainage problems like this with some landscaping techniques or start to improve your soil quality.
3. Feel & Sound
How does it feel? Your soil should crumble easily when rubbed through your fingers, yet it should also form a firm (but not sticky) ball in the palm of your hand if you squeeze it together. Wet clay soil will often sound squelchy when squeezed. If it feels gritty, then you have a sandy soil and it may have trouble holding water long enough to irrigate plants successfully.
Next is a taste test. No, I’m not expecting you to taste your soil! But worms will. Worms love good soil and will feed on any organic material that’s in it. So, if you see worms in your soil then it’s a definite sign that you’ve got good soil.