Soil Secrets Revealed

How is your soil looking? No really, I want you to think about the health of your soil. Soil is practically what makes or breaks our gardens. I know this sounds dramatic but check out this simple example in regards to how a soil can effect stormwater runoff and absorption.


What makes great soil? Organic Matter


Plants breathe in Carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. But where does the carbon go? The soil captures the carbon and it is used by plants as they grow. Some of the carbon is fed into the soil to feed the microbes. These microbes provide nutrients and support the health of the plant. It’s a complex system but this process gives us amazing soil.


Why does this soil carbon process matter? Because healthy soil holds more water! What are we lacking in our state? WATER! It’s a brilliantly designed way for us to utilize the little water we get to make sure we are using it to its fullest potential.

Case Study:

Existing lawn/turf grass (over a hardpacked sand)

Orchard area (mulched with shredded wood mulch)

Meadow area (seeded cover crop, no mulch)

Location in Garden

Organic Carbon in top 0-4″

Infiltration rates for 1″ rain

Lawn, turf grass


34 minutes

Orchard (wood mulch)


15 minutes

Meadow (cover crop)


14 seconds

The Meadow Cover Crop field absorbed the rain water in just 14 seconds, meaning every last bit of that water was utilized to the max right into the earth and straight to the roots.


Below are two tried and true ways to get great soil.

  1. COVER CROP: Grow a cover crop in the area you want to reclaim: This is simply seeding in Diacon radish and winter rye (in winter months) or buckwheat and legumes in summer. The strategy would be to add 1-2″ of compost, mix in with broad fork then seed. The cover crop will do the hard work of breaking up the soil! You can find seeds for all of these at Plants of the Southwest. 
  2. COMPOST: Break up soil with a backhoe, shovel or fork. Mix in compost about 40% compost to 60% existing soil. Level soil, then finish by adding 2″ of shredded bark mulch on top. For best results wait a few months, then plant.

Have you ever tried to make your soil better? What methods have worked best for you?? Share in the comments below.

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