Soil is one of the most valuable resources on Earth today. In fact, soil almost singlehandedly powers the agriculture and livestock industries, and these key industries are what sustain life as we know it. Unfortunately, soil contamination is a growing issue due to increased industrial activity and constant waste disposal. Once soil has been contaminated, it loses its precious nutrients and fertility, and it can take between 200-400 years for a single centimetre of soil to be formed to its original value.
Caring for soil health, therefore, is imperative. But after you get a contaminated soil assessment, what can you do to improve the health and quality of soil? In this blog, we’re showing you how to help soil stay rich and fertile, keeping your garden (and the wider environment) clean and healthy.
How to tell if soil is contaminated
Soil can be checked in a number of ways for contamination, including:
- Assessing leaf discolouration (which may be indicative of poor soil health)
- Checking for earthworms (a low number of worms less than 25mm long may indicate poor soil health)
- Testing soil pH levels
- Booking a professional contaminated soil assessment.
7 ways to improve the health of your soil
#1: Use organic compost
Soil is just like any other organism: it needs food and water to survive and flourish. Compost serves as great ‘food’ for soil, especially when it’s made up by a variety of organic matter. This can include fallen leaves and fruit, vegetable peels and garden debris. Simply chop the compost into the top two inches of soil and cover with mulch to encourage the soil to break down and absorb the nutrients.
#2: Let worms do the work
Sheet mulching is a great way to enrich your soil. It is the process of using the soil surface and earthworms to build compost. As worms burrow between layers, their movements improve the soil structure immensely. They also leave behind nutrient-rich manure castings, which serve as good food for soil.
#3: Avoid compressing soil
Walking on or even digging soil when it is too wet can damage the soil structure due to compression. Compressing soil means that the air is pushed out of it, which allows for fewer organisms (such as plant roots) to grow in this environment. This can eventually contribute to poor soil health.
Luckily, avoiding this is simple: just ensure your garden has plenty of footpaths so you avoid stepping on the soil as much as possible. If you do need to dig into the soil, ensure you check that it is not too wet to do so.
#4: Use the right amount of fertiliser
Too much fertiliser can kill plants by drying them out. Excessive application of fertiliser can also change the pH levels of soil. Therefore, it’s important to get a soil assessment to find out exactly what your soil is lacking, so you can use the right fertiliser accordingly.
#5: Remember the importance of nitrogen
Nitrogen is a component of many key compounds and acids that are essential for plant growth, including chlorophyll and amino acids. As such, the long-term health and quality of soil (and organisms that grow in soil) depends on nitrogen.
These things all contain nitrogen, and can be used to maintain nitrogen levels in your garden:
- Organic fertilisers (such as blood meal or feather meal)
- Grass clippings
#6: Grow cover crops
Cover crops are plants grown specifically for the protection and enrichment of the soil (as opposed to crop yield). Cover crops often prevent the spread of weeds, pests and diseases, while helping to promote soil fertility and manage soil structure.
Grasses, grain grasses and legumes are the most popular types of cover crops. Legume cover crops assist in pulling the nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, which is beneficial for soil health too.
#7: Track results using a soil test
A soil test kit is an inexpensive way to get a clear understanding of the condition of your soil. It gives a reading on the pH level of your soil, as well as assessing the levels of other nutrients (including nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) within. After you conduct a soil test, you can work to amend any areas in which your soil may be deficient.
Book a contaminated soil assessment today
Alpha Environmental provides environmental and occupational hygiene solutions. Our team of environmental consultants has 20 years of experience in providing professional advice for any environmental issue you may have. Whether you need a contaminated soil assessment or an asbestos management plan, our environmental consultants can provide a solution for you.