There is a tried and true saying in the gardening world: Don’t put a $5 plant in a $1 hole; put a $1 plant in a $5 hole. Actually, this sentence doesn’t tell the whole story. The reality is you will save a lot more money on plant purchases over a much greater period if you invest some time and money into your soil. Why? (photo Mother Earth News)

Healthy soil promotes plants:
-With more expansive, well developed roots
-That are more drought tolerant and less stressed by soil temperature swings
-With lush top growth (foliage, flowers, fruits)
-That are more resistant to disease and insect damage
-Less prone to winterkill
-Some Do’s and Don’ts for creating healthy soil

DO’s
* Conduct a soil pH and nutrient test to see if there is a critical component lacking in your soil for supporting healthy gardens or lawns. GardenDesign.com has a fantastic Garden Soil 101 article on creating healthy soil. This includes how to collect soil samples to bring to your local Extension Office for a soil test OR to test yourself. Rapitest is a company offering many terrific do-it-yourself soil test kits. Some locations that are prone to pH extremes are: under pine and oak trees, next to foundations, near stonework, and areas watered with chlorinated water.
* Assess your soil texture. Do you have clay, sandy or loam? Gardener’s Supply Company has a great article on how to do a soil test.
* Adding organic matter will correct poor soil texture (while also adding nutrients), resulting in crumbly garden loam. Materials include compost, aged manures, leaf mold, and mushroom compost
*Decide if
– the whole bed needs to be dug up and amended
– spot amending can be done as new plants are installed
– an annual application of nutrient-rich mulch can be applied for a gradual transformation
*To promote a healthy level of microorganisms, worms and macrofauna, don’t use chemicals
*Creating raised beds is a good solution to poor soil, drainage issues and allowing easier accessibility
*Apply a nutrient-rich mulch annually for weed control, to reduce water evaporation from the soil, minimize soil temperature fluctuations, control erosion and help with soil structure and fertility

Don’ts
* Walk on soil when prepping a bed or doing maintenance
* Rototill. Use a pitchfork or spade to prep garden soil.
* Work wet soil. This damages the soil structure
* Try to improve clay soil by adding sand. Odds are you’ll get cement instead
* Allow diseased or insect infected leaves to winter over on gardens
* Add peat moss to clay soils