IT’S ALL ABOUT THAT DIRT!
One of my most vivid memories while studying soil science in college, was when one of my fellow students referred to soil as “dirt.” Using the word dirt instead of soil did not go over so well to my brilliant, but stuffy professor who immediately said to my classmate. “Son, we’re taking about soil here with thousands of living microorganisms, not dirt. Dirt is something you sweep up with a vacuum cleaner.” As rude as that was, the professor got his point across. From that day forward, everyone in the class referred to that top layer of the earth where plants grow as soil, not dirt!
Truth be told, the key to all plant life is a healthy soil. A healthy soil is determined by the amount of beneficial microbial activity, nutrient value, and of course, the soils pH value. All plants have specific soil Ph factors for optimum growth and good health. For example, the soils pH for a healthy blueberry crop is 4.3 to 5.0. These pH values are considered very low and most plants would perform poorly in these acidic ranges. Contrary to that, most plants, flowers, and trees will perform well at a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0 with 6.5 being ideal. The specific soil pH requirements for each plant type will directly affect the plant or trees ability to utilize the natural nutrients in the soil or fertilizer applied. If a pH value is not within a range considered favorable for a certain plant, that plant may not reach its fullest potential.
The amount of organic matter in a soil also plays a role in the health of a plant. Organic fertilizers, compost, and humates, all help feed microorganisms that are in turn, responsible for converting nutrients in the soil into a form that the plants can absorb and use.
A healthy soil will also have good air movement, allowing the roots to grow and breathe. This is one reason why core aeration is performed so often on golf course greens and higher maintained home lawns. The loose non-compacted soil structure will provide a healthy environment for microbes and will allow your plants root system to become more extensive and robust. In turn, the loose non-compacted soil structure will handle environmental stresses and pest pressures much better.
So, the next time you go to the garden center to buy a plant, don’t forget to pick up some good dirt….I mean soil!