Soil Building

Soil building encompasses many different things, as the soil is its own living and changing ecosystem. While it's possible to grow plants without soil, the vast majority of gardeners use it -- soil is everywhere in all of its myriad forms.

Here, we explain all things soil-based as well as the things that are used to improve that soil. Our writing team provides insight into not just soil types and textures, but also composting, cover cropping for soil improvement, mulching for the myriad of benefits it offers, and so many more things.

We'll explore different organic fertilizers and how they work, techniques like the Back To Eden or no-till methods of gardening, and even delve into the many forms of mulch that can be used to reduce erosion and maintain soil moisture.

Organic gardeners know full well the value of having good soil, and the interplay between organic matter and mineral inputs is key to guaranteeing that you have a living, beneficial, and healthy soil food web. To many, the soil is an entirely new frontier waiting to be explored... and so we'll explore it along with you, step by step.

With a little know-how, you too can improve your existing soil in the yard, learn which amendments are necessary or unnecessary in your situation, and optimize for the best outcome for your specific plant types.

A tidy garden with grass and various drought-resistant plants uses light-colored rocks as mulch.

Mulch

Do Rocks Make Good Mulch?

Rocks are often used as mulch in gardens, but are they the best choice? Master Naturalist Sarah Jay takes a deep dive into the topic, outlining the types of rocks you can garden with and how to use them.

Close-up of growing garlic plants in a bed with pine needle mulch. Garlic plant consists of long, lance-shaped leaves that emerge from a central stem, forming a clump. The mulch consists of long, slender needles that form a loose and airy layer when spread over soil. The color of pine needle mulch varies from light green to golden brown.

Mulch

Do Pine Needles Make Good Mulch?

With all sorts of materials available to use as mulch, it can be difficult to determine what type of much to use. Briana Yablonski will cover the drawbacks and benefits of using pine needles as mulch.

Two rust and black fruit bats hang from the branches of a tree in the garden.

Fertilizer

Is Bat Guano Safe to Use in the Garden?

Bat guano is an amazing organic fertilizer, but it may pose risks to humans, plants, and bat colonies. Former organic farmer Logan Hailey digs into the science and nuances of safely using bat guano in your garden.

A pair of orange-gloved hands pours a white bottle of liquid fertilizer into the green lid. The gardener is surrounded by a collection of white flowerpots, a yellow watering can, and a mound of brown soil on the white table.

Fertilizer

Houseplant Fertilizers: A Beginner’s Guide

Fertilizing houseplants may seem complicated, but once you understand the basics, you’ll have no trouble giving your houseplants the perfect care at the right time. Houseplant expert Madison Moulton explains everything you need to know about fertilizing houseplants, from different types to application methods.

A close-up of xeriscaping exhibits lavender and blue fescue flowers. The slender leaves of fescues add texture. Planted along the sidewalk, basking in sunlight, they create a vibrant, water-efficient landscape.

Mulch

6 Mulch Options for Xeriscape Gardens

Planning a xeriscape garden but not sure what kind of mulch to use? Want to know more about the xeriscape philosophy and how to conserve soil moisture with mulch? In this article, certified master gardener Liz Jaros touches on xeriscape principles and offers seven mulch options for a water-conscious garden.

Close-up of a gardener's hand holding a handful of wet compost with red wigglers in front of a raised garden bed. Red wigglers are small, slender earthworms commonly used in vermicomposting systems.

Soil Improvement

Is Vermicomposting Worth The Trouble?

Vermicomposting involves keeping a container of worms and feeding them food scraps. The worms transform the scraps into beautiful organic matter called worm castings. Is keeping these worms in your house worth the trouble? Let Master Naturalist Lorin Nielsen walk you through vermicomposting and its benefits.

The striking blooms of crimson clover grow as a fall cover crop.

Soil Improvement

9 Fall Cover Crops for Fertile Spring Soil

Nourish your soil all winter with fall-seeded cover crops that protect from erosion, improve fertility, and break up soil compaction. Former organic farmer Logan Hailey shares the top 9 science-backed cover crop species, plus the best ways to terminate them in the spring.

plastic mulch pros and cons

Mulch

18 Pros and Cons of Using Plastic Mulch in the Garden

Plastic mulch can dramatically reduce weeds and improve yields through soil warming and moisture regulation. However, it has a dark side for the environment and soil health. In this article, former organic farmer Logan Hailey explores the science, safety, and practicality of using this product in your garden.