Author: Juanita Meyer

Indications your soil is bad and how to fix it

You may spend time buying seeds and plants for your vegetable garden and dreaming about when you are going to pick the fresh vegetables. But you don’t think about your soil! Maybe you did and are having problems that don’t involve garden pests such as slugs etc. So the problem may be your soil. Make sure you know the signs of bad soil and what can cause it before you start planting in your garden. Below are some indications of bad soil and how to fix it:

Low Nitrogen

If your leaves are low on the plant itself and are discolouring or falling off the soil, it is more than lightly low in Nitrogen. Add compost to the soil and to should fix the issue for you.

Low Phosphorous

If your plants look a purple colour then they are probably low in phosphorous. This can happen because of the temperature of the soil. And because of the temperature of the soil the phosphorous is unable to be released to help the plant even though it’s probably there. Use mulch as this will increase the temperature in the soil and help release the phosphorous.

Too much Nitrogen

If you have lush foliage, little or no fruit, this may be because you have too much nitrogen. You may also notice your leaves are wilting downwards and are yellow or have brown burnt areas on your lower leaves; these are other signs of too much nitrogen. You can fix this with some mulch but go slowly. You can also bring down the level of nitrogen by planting vegetables like corn, cabbage and broccoli.


Vegetables need pollination in order to grow fruit.  If your plants are not producing but still blooming you may need more bees and birds. Plant flowers around the border in your garden.


Puddles of water are not good for your garden. If you live in a climate where there is lots of rain you will understand the problem. Sometimes gardeners that are eager to start their gardens in spring can deal with this sort of problem. You will know if your soil is ready after the spring by taking a handful and squeezing it. If water starts dripping from your hand then you may need to aerate the soil.

Test your soil

The best thing to do is to have your soil tested or do it yourself. Some garden centres will test your samples of soil or another option is to buy a kit and do it yourself.

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Soiled Office Carpets? Some Cleaning Advice

First of all – for a professional carpet cleaning job for your company premises, check out commercial cleaning in livermore. You won’t be disappointed! 

Soil has made its way into your office!

Maybe your company is based in the country side or you have clients who like playing in the mud! While it’s great to be outdoors and at one with nature, wet soil and grass can make it’s way back into your premises, staining your lovely carpet or wooden floor. It’s estimated that approximately 80% of the soil that gathers on your carpet comprises of dry particles and sand.

This kind of soil is generally quite abrasive and gritty which can cause it to wear down your carpet. This gives your carpets that dull look. If you don’t remove it, the loose soil will find its way to the bottom of the particles. So, as more and more people walk on your carpet, the sharp edges of the articles cut into the carpet’s fiber. If you leave this untreated, the soil particles will actually cut away at fibers at the bottom, causing a thinning out and worn patterns on your carpet.

photo of a clean looking office space

In addition to the grit mentioned above, the remaining particles of soil in carpets consists of grease, oil and starch etc. Cooking, exhaust fumes, heating and other things produce these other constituents. Mainly acidic in nature, this soil can be treated by a carpet cleaning detergent as most of these are an alkaline. Many work places gather high amounts of soil in their carpets due to the nature of the work being done there, foot traffic and just general build up over time. Mild alkaline agents with enough detergent in them, effectively neutralise the soil.

Carpets act like a sponge so they not only contain high amounts of dirt but also particles of food, bits of hair, and other fibers too. Dust mites love carpets for this reason! Also, as humans, we shed a degree of dead skin on a daily basis that adds to dust which also finds its way into your carpet.

You need to be careful of any cleaning residue in your carpets. This affects the wear-ability and look of soft floors. The residue causes quick re-soiling that affects the look of a lot of types of carpet, causing a dirty appearance although it’s really clean. Among the most difficult soils to remove from any carpet are tar, resins, chewing gum and oils. Due to their bonding properties, the soils tend to be sticky which then effectively cure themselves or dry onto the carpet fiber, which means they won’t be removable with a dry vacuum job. To remove them completely, these require sufficient moisture, some chemicals, and a good scrub to fully loosen them up and get rid of.

Note: Other difficult soils to remove are those which are extremely small, those which contain dye or some kind of pigment which stains by sinking right into your carpet.

For a DIY job, knowing the soil types and proper cleaning agent to use is important to maintaining your carpeted surfaces. Alternatively, hire a professional to do the job for you.

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How To Compost 101

Composting is a great way to break down bits of food, grass, and anything that is biodegradable. Let’s look at the simple steps involved in creating your compost heap.


How to compost

  1. Start off your pile of compost on bare soil, in your garden or wherever. This will allow worms and other organisms which are beneficial to the breakdown of your compost and transport nutrients to your garden flower beds.
  2. Firstly, lay some twigs or straw down, a couple of inches thick. This will help with drainage and helps to aerate the compost pile.
  3. Add in your compost materials in multiple layers. Alternate between moist and dry. The moist ingredients should be scraps of food, used tea bags and/or seaweed. Dry materials would be leaves, wood ashes, and sawdust pellets. If you are using ashes from burnt wood, then sprinkle them on thin layers, otherwise, they’ll clump together, causing the breakdown to slow down.
  4. Add in your manure, some green manure or any other source of nitrogen. This will effectively activate the compost and increases the speed of the whole process.
  5. Keep your compost pile moist. Water it regularly or just let the rain do it’s work.
  6. Cover it over with some wood or a sheet of plastic, even some carpet would do. This will help to retain the heat and moisture, two essential elements for a compost pile. The covering will also prevent your compost from being saturated by rain water.
  7. Turning the compost. Every couple of weeks, give your compost pile a quick turn over with a shovel or spade. This will aerate the compost. Turning introduces oxygen, which is needed.

[Continue reading…]

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Keeping Your Soil Out of Storm Drains

Storm water management is a big challenge in urban environments since most of the original soil in these areas is covered by surfaces such as concrete. Because of this, the soil in urban areas cannot do its job of storing, capturing, and cleaning the rainwater that fall. This leaves the water nowhere to go other than into the streets and through the storm drains.

Run offMy simply managing the soil in your own yard, you can make a huge difference in the amount of water that goes into the storm drains. The biggest way to help is through reducing, or preventing, the compaction of soil. You see, soil contains many pores like a sponge. When you compact the soil, their size is reduced. Compacted soil is unable to hold as much water as soil that is healthy can. Since compacted soil has less channels for the water to flow into it, it is difficult for the water to penetrate the soil. There are some simple things you can do to help reduce the compaction of the soil in your yard.

First, limit how much you walk around your yard. This definitely needs to be the case after it rains since the soil is more likely to compact when it is wet. Instead, make designated paths and walk on those. You can also add some mulch to the areas to further protect the soil. Never drive or park large objects in your yard either.

Second, add a lot of organic matter to your soil. The easiest way to accomplish this is to leave organics on your yard, such as leaves and grass clippings. These items will incorporate into the soil as they decompose. You will increase the holding capacity of your soil by using organic matter. The holding capacity refers to how much water that can be held by your soil.

Keep your soil covered at all times, You can do this with mulch or with plants that have deep roots. The roots on the plants aggregate the soil. This loosens it up and allows water to flow down into the soil rather than over the surface. If plants can’t grow easily in an area, use mulch to help hold the moisture in.

Taking these steps may be simple and seem irrelevant, but if we all do these things in our yards, the impact could be overwhelming not only for your yard, but for the community that depends on the storm drains. In this way, you also help your community to have cleaner water and healthier soil.


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Soil and Food Recalls

shutterstock_162665861-e1462465002529Are the food recalls on fresh food caused because of the soil they are grown in? Well, that can be a hard question to answer since each recall is unique.

For the most part, the viruses or bacteria get on the food surfaces while the food is in the field, during handling, preparation, or processing. Many times, the microorganism that causes the recall is from fecal matter. Many of the pathogens live as a host inside an animal, not causing the animal any harm. It’s only when it gets inside a person that it becomes a problem. If that person works with food preparation or handling, the illness is apt to be spread a lot further.

While in the field, animal waste could be a problem in spreading infectious diseases, but it’s a lot more often that humans spread it when preparing food. It can also be spread in situations where human wasted that is untreated is used as fertilizer. Any pathogens in that waste can be transferred to the food.



What about the pathogens being spread through the soil? Well, the soil does not have the nutrients that the pathogenic microorganisms look for or the conditions they need to grow, such as sunlight, moisture, and temperature. Because of this, it is not a good place for pathogens to live so they will die off fairly quickly. The pathogens thrive in the nutrient rich guts of humans or animals, not in the dry hot soil. The sun kills the bacteria as well.

Due to this, soil is not a likely source for food that is contaminated. If the soil is treated improperly close to time for harvest with waste that is infected, it may be the source, but that is uncommon. There are many things in place to keep that from happening, as long as the regulations are followed.

There are, however, many sources of pathogens that are able to find a way into the areas of production and bring with them contamination. This is why most events of food contamination is due to improper storage and handling of items well after they have left the farm.




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How to Determine the Age of Soil

Have you ever wondered how the age of soil is figured out? It seems like quite the guessing game to many and, in a lot of ways, it is.

Scientists that work with soil agree that different soils will form over time as the living organisms (the animals and plants living in the soil), parent material (the weathered rocks or items dropped by gravity, ice, water, or wind), topography (the landscape’s shape, and climate (the wind, rain, snow, temperature, etc) all interact.

2303526689_95b869a5bcClimate is well known to affect how fast that erosion and weathering happen, but it does not given very many clues as to how long the soil has been sitting in a particular place. The trees, parent materials, and landscape tend to give clues that are better so, when a scientist wants to know how old the soil is, they follow those clues.

Scientists that work with soil know that, in certain places in the landscape, soils will form faster than in other places. Flat landscapes in positions that are upland have more soil form than those in other places like on slopes. Because of erosion, slopes are limited on the rate soil forms. Also, in lowland areas, soil formation is slower because of deposits of new materials that hit the surface through gravity or floods. On top of that, we can look at the oldest tree growing in an area and know that the soil can’t be younger than it. It also can’t be older than the landscape materials it is found on. Geologists help the soil scientists to figure out the age of the landscape and which parent materials have been there the longest. Because the parent material deposits happened before we started writing down history, the geologists make a guess that is educated based on the landscape’s age and the materials it includes in relation to periods of known floods, volcanic activity, glaciation, and other events in history.

Pretty simple, right?

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Benefits of Mulch

Mulch for landscaping comes in a lot of textures and colors. In some places, hardwood bark is prominent where, in other places, pine straw is the most used mulch. You can even have gravel or cocoa hulls in mulch. These types of mulch help to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. They can do much more too.

denver-mulch-deliveryFirst of all, mulch can have a big effect when it comes to solids running off the soil. When the soil is bare, it loses around five times more sediment than when there is mulch on it. This means that mulch helps stop erosion. One thing to note, though, is that using geotextiles (like landscape fabric) under the mulch seems to make the runoff worse. Keep in mind that each kind of mulch absorbs the runoff differently and does not depend on the soil under it to determine the amount of runoff it protects against.

As a temporary forest floor is one way to look at mulch. For consumers, it is a way to suppress weeds, conserve moisture in the soil, and make things look nicer, but it is also a way to help stop erosion. It is great to add to areas where the herbaceous layer or natural leaf litter isn’t available to help the soil hold water and keep it from producing runoffs. In the long run, it helps to improve our quality of water by helping the water to penetrate into the soil rather than flowing into the storm water system. Flowing through the soil also helps to clean the water that we will later use to consume.

So, to recap, mulch brings with it a lot of benefits. It can provide aesthetics, reduce sediment erosion, reduce runoff of water, help to keep the moisture in the soil, and suppress weeds. Generally, plants should fill in the soil whenever possible, even in areas that are covered with mulch. Hopefully more people will become aware of helping the ecosystem by having more natural areas in urban surroundings than paved areas. Mulch allows these areas to stay part of the green infrastructure.



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Leave the Leaves!

When you leave your leaves on the ground, they will just mold, right? Do they become part of the soil? Yes, they do. And even if they do mold, that is a good kind of mold that your yard can use. How does that work?

download-5In Autumn, nature provides your yard with lots of leaves. It’s a gift from nature that you may just think is a nuisance. All of the leaves and other plant litter can potentially add nutrients to your yard or garden, though.


You may wonder how this all works. Well, in Autumn, the deciduous trees leaves turn orange, yellow, and red. They then fall to the ground and cover your yard. Your annual plants will then wither and die. It’s quite the cycle. The plants use the ground’s nutrients as they grow then give them back at the end of the season. Even the coniferous trees will drop some of their cones and needles.

A lot of homeowners, and even those who work as lawn care professionals, have the opinion that the dying plants and leaves are unattractive as they sit and rot in the yard. Some even think that this waste may hurt their beautiful lawn or their productive gardens. You see people all over the place raking up their leaves, pulling up all of the dying plants, and bagging up the waste to be carried off and put into a landfill. This messes up the natural process of returning the nutrients to the earth, though. Each time this is done, a piece of natural fertility that was added to the land is removed. Each and every year, we take away the natural source of nutrients that the soil needs. We are then left, in the Spring, having to replace the nutrients we took away in the form of fertilizers or compost. With us stripping the nutrients away in the Autumn, that is the only way we can get a lush green lawn or a garden that grows nutrient rich foods.




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Soil and Mudslides

washington_mudslide-088c6Have you ever seen a mudslide? No, I’m not talking about a fun mudslide that kids love to go down, or even the drink. I am talking about a real mudslide that can be a danger to people and their valuables.

A mudslide is also known as a landslide. These happen, usually after a lot of heavy rain, when earth materials such as mud runs down a slope. These are found a lot of times in places where buildings are sitting on top of soil that is not able to effectively hold precipitation. When a lot of precipitation comes, the steep incline with the weight of the water pushes the dirt and mud downhill. This can be a long, drawn out process or a very quick one. The ones that are considered flash mudslides are the most dangerous. This is when the saturated, heavy dirt suddenly falls down the slope without any warning.

Though a mudslide can happen anywhere in the United States, there are some places more prone to mudslides than others. Because of their hilly terrain, places in the West Coast like Oregon, Washington, and California are more likely to experience a mudslide than other states. Also, areas that have been effected by wildfires or altered by people are at a greater risk to have a mudslide.

If you live on a hilly terrain and are worried about a potential mudslide, you should get in touch with local authorities to see if your area has experienced a mudslide or debris flow in the past. You should also make a plan of evacuation for your business or home in the case of a mudslide. If one happens without warning, do everything you can to safely leave the building. Try to get to higher ground away from the flow. The higher you can get, the better to protect yourself from a mudslide.


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The Winter and Your Soil

As we have discussed in previous posts, healthy soil is essential for a healthy life. The soil, in winter, can help keep microbes, animals, and plant roots from freezing. As the air temps drop below freezing, the water that’s in the top soil layer will freeze and form a frost layer. You may believe that life in the soil stops when the ground freezes, but you would be wrong.

flower_covered_by_snow_ggaallaa_fotolia_largeThough the frost layer may go down several feet, other factors determine just how far down it can go. When snow covers the ground in early winter, it can be utilized as a blanket for the soil below. Also, heat is created underground as organic matter decomposes. This organic matter can consist of leaves, compost, or mulch and serves as an insulation for the root systems.

Some shrubs, trees, and grasses are perennial and can withstand freezing temperatures. They grow their roots down past the layer of frost. The roots do several things to protect themselves from freezing. Perennial plant roots send out water into the soil around them from their cells, allowing them to withstand the cold temps without the water in their cells expanding and killing the cells in the roots. There is also a high concentration of salts and sugars in these plants which lowers their freezing point.

Animals that live in the soil will generally burrow beneath the frost layer during the winter. They will either hibernate or live underground on the food stores they have throughout the winter months. Some of these animals include gophers, worms, turtles, snakes, frogs, and insects.

Here is something that is fascinating: many animals that live in the soil have the ability to survive at below freezing temperatures. In North America, there are at least five species of frogs that produce their own kind of antifreeze. Because of this, they are able to be frozen completely for an extended period of time without their cells suffering damage. Quite amazing!

Many of the fungi and bacteria in the soil can stay active during the winter too. In the permafrost grounds of Antarctica, microbial life has been found. When Spring comes in North America, the microbes activate and do their job more vigorously in order to ensure biodiversity.

So the next time you are out for a winter stroll, think about what’s happening underground. Though you may not can see it, there is life beneath the frozen earth.


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