A wide variety of landscape challenges — ranging from ineffective water drainage to a location of the yard where nothing seems to grow — indicate that the problem is actually with your soil.

Soil amendments can be relatively simple and make a big difference in the health of the yard as well as how many chemicals and artificial controls you must use on it. Nevertheless, to properly amend your soil, you should know a little more about this vital task. Here are six ways that you may be able to address issues using soil amendments.

1. Soil Testing

One of the first moves that may be recommended before attempting any soil amendment is to have the soil tested. A proper soil test will give vital information about the pH levels in various parts of your landscape as well as details about nutrient levels. This level of detail may be necessary if you haven’t gotten the results expected from topical measures like fertilizing or aerating.

While the most common reason to use soil testing is to understand the pH levels in a yard, don’t overlook the value of knowing more about any deficiencies in specific nutrients. These include things like nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Too little magnesium in the soil, for example, may cause yellowing leaves. Too little potassium, on the other hand, may result in brown edges.

2. Soil Aeration

One of the simplest things any homeowner can do to affect the soil is aeration. Aerating the soil, or opening up the soil to allow in air from above, helps it get greater circulation of elements like oxygen and carbon dioxide as well as additional space within the solid matter for roots to penetrate and take hold. All these must exist in a good balance in order to facilitate root growth.

Aeration may be achieved by simply spiking the soil to create divots once or twice a year. You may also opt to pull out plugs, called cores, of soil and leave them to be reincorporated over time. In addition, less commonly, some choose liquid aeration instead.

3. Organic Matter

Organic matter — often things like compost, fertilizer, peat, or dropped leaves — add texture to the soil. This matter helps reduce compaction of the soil itself by adding other components with different absorbencies and open or closed structures. In addition, organic matter has its own acidity and alkaline levels, so it can make slower or more minor amendments in these areas.

Deploying organic matter is something that many homeowners may need to do on a regular basis. You may be advised, for example, to leave grass clippings on the lawn or to work in dead leaves under trees and deciduous bushes instead of removing them. However, the wrong organic matter could make things worse.

4. Lime and Sulfur

Understanding pH levels is one of the biggest keys to helping many of your trees, grasses, flowers, and shrubs. Some plants, like rhododendrons and many evergreen species, like acidic soil. However, others, like hydrangeas or lilacs, cannot thrive in the acidity.

Amending with lime and sulfur are both tried-and-true methods of adjusting the pH up or down. Lime generally raises pH while sulfur lowers it. How much you need to work into soil to achieve desired effects depends on your soil’s particular deficiencies. Some landscapes may only need an occasional amendment to fix pH while others may need regular treatments.

5. Gypsum

Gypsum is a soil amendment that can help open up the soil if it’s suffering from compaction. While many amendments affect the pH of the soil, gypsum can change other factors without doing so. Not only can it loosen up soil but it’s also a great source of calcium for plants that need it.

6. Usage Adjustments

As mentioned, soil compaction hinders good plant growth. However, aerating or using organic matter may not be the only solution to some compaction problems. Sometimes, an important key is to determine the mechanical reason an area is compacted.

What sort of use does a particular part of your yard or lawn get? Regularly driving or parking on a section of earth or lawn will continue to compact the soil underneath. To a lesser extent, soil underneath children’s play areas, sports fields, and pet runs is trampled into compaction. In addition, poor drainage can cause repeated waterlogging to compact a section. Fixing the root cause of the compaction helps restore the soil.

Where to Start

Could soil amendments help your landscape? The best way to find out is to consult with the soil amendment experts at Schulhoff Tree & Lawn Care in Denver.

With more than 80 years of experience working with Colorado soil, plants, and trees, we can help you find the right solutions to all your soil care challenges. Call today to make an appointment or get answers to your pressing soil amendment questions.