In Landscaping and horticulture in general we are involved primarily with growing media. The quality of soil we work with is important; this is recognised by the Australian Standards we must adhere to. What is less known and too often overlooked is the health of our soils.

What constitutes a healthy soil?
A soil is healthy when there is a balanced range of biological organisms. Protozoa, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, mites and a large number of micro-arthropods are all found in healthy soils. These organisms are essential for a healthy life sustaining soil and affect not only plants but the ability of soils to regulate the flow and storage of water, the maintenance of the soil structure and the reduction in pest and diseases.

What can we do to maintain a healthy soil?
When excavating, separate the top soil from the sub-soil, replace the soil layers as they were originally. Too often sub-soil is placed on top when back filling. It does not add cost and shows the clients you understand basic soil structure. Use a good mulch as this will protect the top soil from heating up and desiccating thus protecting the soil micro-organisms. Limit your use of herbicides and pesticides and understand your fertilizers and their effects on soil biology.

How to improve a damaged soil?
This is not as hard as it seems. The first step is to de-compact the soil. Adding organic matter and humate will improve soil structure and water holding capacity. The aim is to stimulate soil microbial activity.

About Patrick Regnault
I have worked in the horticultural and landscaping industry for over 35 years in three different countries.I am a member and Registered Horticulturist with the Australian Institute of Horticulture and member of the Housing Industry Association. I am the owner of Interactive Landscapes, a successful structural landscaping and landscape design business. I believe that what gardens and gardening do is to reconnect people with the fundamental elements of nature. A good gardener will try and acquire a profound understanding of the balance of nature and endeavour to do the best to improve the environment in which the garden is situated. At Interactive Landscapes it is a philosophy that we put into practice when designing and creating a garden, no matter the size. Our name reflects this as we understand that gardens are a place of interaction. View all posts by this author »