The usual image that comes to mind when thinking about erosion is beach erosion and other areas where the land has very noticeable changes due to erosion. It’s often straightforward to see the impact that erosion has on these areas because there are visible changes to the landscape. Soil erosion can result in changes that aren’t visible that can have just as devastating an impact as a beach disappearing over time.
As a gardener, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to deal with soil erosion, as it can harm the fertility of the soil in your garden.
What is Soil Fertility?
Soil fertility is the concept of how well the soil can provide a habitat for life. Rich, fertile soil is the home of diverse organisms and is able to grow a variety of plants that result in a plentiful harvest of top-quality fruits and vegetables. A backyard garden that has fertile soil doesn’t need any amendments to it to ensure that your crop does well. A garden that has soil fertility issues will struggle to yield a quality harvest.
What Factors Contribute to Soil Fertility?
Several factors contribute to soil fertility. The soil needs to be deep enough for roots to grow and water to be retained in it. Weak root growth or water that evaporates too quickly will result in plants that don’t thrive. There also needs to be some drainage in the soil. More clay-based soils can result in poor drainage. This drainage issue can result in plants having their roots rot, and often ends in the plant dying. Also, drainage issues often mean that the soil is too hard without aeration for the roots.
The amount of organic matter that is found in the soil is also essential. Organic matter helps with soil structure and moisture, along with putting minerals and nutrients into the soil. A lack of organic matter will often result in plants that are probably not getting the right mix of nutrients to grow. Fertile soil also has the perfect pH. It should range from 5.5 to 7.0 for most plants. There are some plants, such as blueberries, that prefer soil outside of this pH range, but for most plants, this range is the sweet spot.
Another aspect of soil fertility is the other organisms in the soil. Some gardeners think of every organism that invades their garden as a pest or a problem that needs to be eradicated, but that’s not always the case. There are beneficial microorganisms that live in the soil that help plants grow, such as mycorrhizae. Poor soil quality often results in the death or migration of these microorganisms.
Why is Soil Fertility Important?
Often, when there are issues with the growth of a plant or the harvest, there are two potential causes. One is pests, while the other is soil fertility. Soil fertility is vital for the soil to provide the perfect medium for any plants to grow. Problems with the fertility of the soil will show up during the growing season. Gardeners may find that their seedlings don’t grow as they should or that the leaves of the plants are yellowing when they should be a healthy green. The fertility of the soil must be addressed to help treat any issues and prevent them from occurring again in the future.
How Does Erosion Affect Soil Fertility?
Soil erosion can have an impact on soil fertility. The soil in your garden is in layers that have been deposited over time. Often, the top layer that you plant your garden in is called topsoil. Erosion erases away the top layers of the topsoil over time. As topsoil is often one of the most fertile areas, you’re losing some of the qualities that make your soil fertile. Loss of soil fertility can be a huge problem for gardeners that can’t be ignored.
Testing Your Soil
One of the first things that should be done if you think there’s a problem with the fertility of your soil is to test it. Testing is a valuable tool that can help you address any lack of nutrients or minerals in the soil that’s impacting your crops or flowers. There are two options when it comes to testing.
You can pick up a DIY kit that allows you to take several samples from around your garden and test the soil yourself. These kits can require that you follow the directions exactly to get the correct results, so it is imperative to read the instructions carefully a few times before you get started.
The other option is to send your soil samples off to a lab to have them tested for you. For this option, you’ll need to collect the soil using the directions they send. Usually, these directions are that you have to collect at an appropriate depth and in several areas to get an overall feel for your soil’s health.
Once you receive the test results, you can use them to amend the soil as needed. You may find that you need a general application of fertilizer to boost the nutrients in the soil or that you need only one particular nutrient. Problems with pH can also be found at this time.
Soil Fertility Assistance
After you’ve tested the soil, you should also look into the physical nature of the soil. How deep does your garden bed go down? Does your soil contain clay? When it rains, does your garden become a muddy mess? Any of these issues should be adjusted. For instance, you can add lighter amendments to the soil that’s high in clay.
Soil erosion can cause issues with your garden and how well it will grow over the season. Adding minerals and nutrients to it may be necessary if the erosion has taken away too much of what makes your soil fertile. Testing your soil is one of the best methods of ensuring that your soil remains viable for this growing season and beyond.