6 Mistakes That Are Ruining the Soil Quality in Your Garden

Mulching is more important than you think.

<p> Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images</p>

Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images

Growing a garden is rewarding but it isn’t always easy, especially if you are new to it. While many factors impact growth, focusing on soil quality is essential. According to Amy Enfield, PhD, senior horticulturist at ScottsMiracle-Gro, “Soil structure, water retention and availability, microbial activity, pH balance, and nutrient availability, all tie back to soil quality,” she says. “Good soil quality helps promote healthy plant growth by allowing for optimal nutrient and water uptake as well as a sustainable ecosystem in the garden.”

Even with the best intentions, you could be doing things that prevent your garden from thriving as much as possible. Here are six common mistakes that can negatively impact soil quality in your garden.

Related: 7 Plants That Improve Soil Quality, According to Gardening Experts

Installing Your Garden Bed in a Busy Spot

While sunlight is important, it's also crucial to install your garden bed in a place where it won't be walked over or trampled on. Enfield tells me that heavy foot traffic can lead to soil compaction which restricts root growth, water infiltration, and air circulation.

Not Mulching

Failing to mulch can cause a variety of issues in your garden, such as exposing the soil to erosion, compaction, large temperature fluctuations, and moisture loss through evaporation. “Mulching garden beds with a product like Miracle-Gro Organic All Natural Mulch helps slow moisture loss, suppress weeds, regulates soil temperature, and adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down.”

Another benefit of mulching is that it helps minimize the compaction forces of water through rainfall or irrigation.

Not Accounting for Proper Drainage

According to Enfield, “Soils with bad drainage can lead to waterlogging, which deprives plant roots of oxygen which leads to plant decline, root rot, and ultimately plant death.”

However, there are some easy solutions to this problem, which include amending heavy clay soils with organic matter and installing drainage systems if necessary. She also advises not planting your garden in low-lying areas prone to water accumulation because it may not naturally drain.

Not Testing the Soil

It might feel like an extra step but soil testing can be a game-changer. “A soil test will help you determine if your soil’s pH needs adjusting and what nutrients are lacking. Imbalances in pH and nutrients not only affect the health of your soil but also the health of your plants,” says Enfield. “Conducting soil tests periodically allows you to make informed decisions about soil amendments and fertilization practices.”

Ignoring Soil Biology

Soil is more than just dirt. Understanding it and supporting its health is crucial so it can help your plants, flowers, and veggies thrive. “Soil is full of life, including beneficial microbes, fungi, insects, and earthworms, that play vital roles in nutrient cycling, decomposition, and soil structure,” says Enfield. “Practices like excessive tilling, excessive use of chemicals, and not mulching can disrupt soil biology.”

She recommends encouraging soil biodiversity by mulching, incorporating organic matter, and rotating crops in vegetable gardens.

Planting Invasive Species

Planting invasive species can create havoc in your garden explains Enfield. “Introducing invasive plant species to your garden can outcompete native vegetation, disrupt ecosystems, and alter soil composition. Be mindful of the plants you choose to grow and try to incorporate more native species that support local biodiversity and soil health.”

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