Improving Your Landscape Soils, the Right Way

April 19, 2021 | By: Gary Snyder

landscape soils

So, back in the dark ages, when I was at Ohio State. Yep, before all of THE Ohio State University stuff. I had a professor who taught agronomy, in his class, dirt was what you swept under the rug. Soil was what you grew plants in. You paid dearly if you slipped up and referred to soil as dirt in the class. You may have been asked to leave the lecture for that day to think about your agronomic sins or at least experience the mockery that was coming your way for the next hour. But we learned our lesson, and to this day, the hair on the back of my neck stands when I hear someone refer to landscape soils as dirt!

Fast forward to today, and I think I may have an argument for my old professor because of some of the “soil” tests that I get back from the lab, I think we are bordering on that DIRT definition because there really isn’t a whole lot of plant growing stuff in there. When we see the soil tests for landscape bed areas, more likely than not, they have a very low CEC value, very low P & K numbers, and high pH. This makes it very difficult to grow any plant in! Experts all agree that over 50% of tree and ornamental issues start in the soil. Often, by the time the plant is sending out distress signals, in the form of discolored leaves, curling leaves, lack of flowering or fruit production, etc., it may be too late. 

You know how I always tell you GREEN VELVET can HELP! Well, let’s look at how we can help you improve your landscape soils by using Humics, Humates, and Beneficial Soil Bacteria.

Humics 101

Humic substances originate from residues of plant and animal matter that have been generated over millions of years. They typically contain high amounts of carbon that provide significant, long-lasting additions to the soil humic levels, help existing nutrients become mobile within the soil, improve microbial diversity and stimulate beneficial microbes. 

  • Additional benefits of Humics:
    • Increase the availability of P
    • Stabilize N
    • Rapidly enhance the soil structure
    • Neutralize the soil pH
    • Increase CEC
    • Buffer soils from heavy metals and salts

Research consistently shows that Humics improve root mass and growth, enhance nutrient availability/uptake, and contribute to overall higher plant quality. 

Not sold on it yet? How about… while Humics are more expensive than compost, much smaller amounts of Humics are required per acre (150#-200#/acre), resulting in a much smaller cost per application as well as the labor savings applying it. The Humic is also considerably faster to incorporate into the soil and begin its work. 

Benefits of Bacteria

Bacteria are the smallest and most numerous organisms in the soil.  Most bacteria species are decomposers that live on simple carbon compounds, root exudates, and plant litter. Bacteria are first on the scene when nutrients and residues are added to the soil. They convert these compounds into readily available forms to the rest of the organisms in the food web.

So where do we come in?

Green Velvet has several forms of easy to apply Humics and Humates. Our Humic DG, from The Anderson’s, comes in granular form that is easy to apply. The DG formulation allows the product to quickly dissolve into the soil profile and begin working. The Anderson’s Black Gypsum gives you the bonus application of gypsum as well as the humate.

 If you like liquid applications, we offer Apex-10. It’s been field-proven to enhance soil quality and build stronger, healthier plants. It aids in root development, feeds beneficial fungi, and stimulates soil microbial activity & growth.

For improved rooting and soil microbial activity, Green Velvet offers the Sanctuary line of ornamental fertilizers. The 3-3-4 granular, 5-5-5 plant tablets and the 11-21-21 injectable/drench all provide a broad group of beneficial soil bacteria and fungi to enhance biological soil activity as well as feeding the existing soil microbes which aid in root regeneration and plant establishment. The NutriRoot product, from Arborjet, offers seaweed extract, humates, and humectants to enhance and increase root development, reduce nutrient deficiencies, and improve drought stress on landscape plants. NutriRoot can be applied by watering can drench, sprayers, soil injectors, and “Treegator Bags”. Arborjet also offers Cytogro, a seaweed supplement/hormone biostimulant, that stimulates root growth and health, increases stress tolerance, and promotes general plant vigor.

Improving your landscape soils is the first step to improving the overall health of your landscape plants. This isn’t an overnight fix but done correctly, with soil tests, you will see improvements in the first year of implementing a soil health program. Contact your favorite Green Velvet salesperson today to start the process of improving your landscape soils.