Good topsoil is relatively dark in color, active with microorganisms, plant nutrients, and organic matter, and usually has a pH between 5.5 and 7.5 (for non-acid loving plants).
Follow the four core management principles for healthy soil management (from https://www.4thesoil.org/) :
1. Keep Soil Covered: It’s the first step in protecting it from erosion, but also buffers soil temperature, slows rainfall runoff, and aids rainfall infiltration.
2. Minimize Soil Disturbance: Both physical and chemical. This proactive measure can heal and protect properties of the soil and ultimately enhance the biological component of soil life.
3. Maximize Living Roots: Doing this longer throughout the year fuels biological activity, aids nutrient cycling, and contributes to improved soil structure.
4. Energize with Diversity: Use different crop species and integrate livestock where possible for specific purposes to enhance chemical, physical and/ or biological aspects of the soil. It improves the whole system.
A soil test can provide information on the proper amount of lime and fertilizer to apply to your lawn, garden and other areas of your landscape. When gardeners apply only as much lime and fertilizer as is necessary and at the appropriate time, nutrient runoff into surface or ground water is minimized, money is saved, and plant health is optimized. Soil testing can also be used to diagnose common nutrient deficiencies for plants that are growing poorly. Perform a soil test every 3 to 4 years.
You can pick up a soil test kit at the Extension Office: 750 Miller Dr., SE, Suite F-3, Leesburg, VA. Instructions are provided.
Spotlight: How to take a soil sample from University of Illinois:
My Backyard measures for scorecard:
- Soil Sample. Credit = 4 inches