5 Hidden Signs Your Soil Needs Help (And How to Fix It)

As gardeners and landscapers, we know that healthy soil is the foundation of a thriving garden or landscape. But sometimes, even the most experienced green thumbs encounter challenges with their soil. Whether it's stunted plant growth, yellowing leaves, or poor drainage, these hidden signs can indicate underlying soil problems that need attention. In this blog post, we'll uncover five hidden signs that your soil needs help and provide actionable solutions to fix them, based on soil test results.

1. Stunted Plant Growth

Sign: If your plants are struggling to grow or are smaller than expected, it could be a sign of nutrient deficiencies or imbalances in the soil.

Solution: Conduct a soil test to identify any nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. Based on the results, amend the soil with the appropriate fertilizers or soil amendments to correct the problem. For example, if the soil test reveals low nitrogen levels, you can apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to promote healthy plant growth.

2. Yellowing Leaves (Chlorosis)

Sign: Yellowing leaves, especially in younger leaves, can indicate a lack of essential nutrients such as iron or magnesium in the soil.

Solution: Test the soil for nutrient deficiencies, paying particular attention to micronutrients like iron and magnesium. If the soil test confirms a deficiency, apply a micronutrient-rich fertilizer or foliar spray to correct the problem. Additionally, consider incorporating organic matter into the soil to improve nutrient availability and uptake by plants.

3. Poor Drainage

Sign: Standing water or soggy soil after rainfall indicates poor drainage, which can lead to root rot and other plant health issues.

Solution: Test the soil's texture and structure to determine if compaction or high clay content is causing poor drainage. If soil compaction is the problem, aerate the soil by tilling or using a garden fork to improve air and water infiltration. For clay soil, incorporate organic matter such as compost or gypsum to improve drainage and soil structure.

4. Soil pH Imbalance

Sign: Soil pH imbalance can manifest in various ways, including stunted growth, nutrient deficiencies, and yellowing leaves.

Solution: Test the soil pH to determine if it's too acidic or alkaline. Based on the results, adjust the soil pH using lime to raise pH levels or sulfur to lower pH levels. It's essential to follow recommended application rates and monitor pH levels regularly to maintain a balanced soil pH.

5. Weeds Thriving

Sign: If weeds are thriving in your garden or landscape, it could be a sign of poor soil health or nutrient imbalances.

Solution: Conduct a soil test to identify any nutrient deficiencies or imbalances that may be promoting weed growth. Address the underlying soil issues by amending the soil with the appropriate fertilizers or soil amendments to create less favorable conditions for weed growth. Additionally, implementing mulching practices can help suppress weed growth and conserve soil moisture.

Bonus: Downloadable Resources

To help you tackle soil problems with confidence, we've created downloadable resources like checklists and cheat sheets summarizing the key takeaways from this blog post. These resources provide actionable advice and guidance for addressing common soil issues and improving soil health in your garden or landscape. Click the links below to download your free resources:

  1. [Soil Health Checklist](link to downloadable checklist)
  2. [Soil Problem Cheat Sheet](link to downloadable cheat sheet)

Conclusion

Don't let hidden soil problems sabotage your garden or landscape. By recognizing the signs of soil distress and taking proactive steps to address them, you can ensure healthy, thriving plants and vibrant outdoor spaces. Whether it's stunted plant growth, yellowing leaves, poor drainage, soil pH imbalance, or weed infestations, there are practical solutions available based on soil test results. Conducting regular soil tests and implementing appropriate soil amendments and management practices will help you maintain optimal soil health and create a flourishing garden or landscape. So roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and let's give your soil the help it needs to support your green dreams!

See all articles

Our tests

Have a question? Get in touch.

Understanding Soil Health

Assessing soil health involves looking at physical, chemical, and biological components.

Soil health is a fundamental concept that underpins the success of agriculture, gardening, and land management practices. It refers to the overall well-being and vitality of the soil ecosystem, encompassing physical, chemical, and biological aspects. Understanding soil health is crucial for maintaining sustainable and productive landscapes while also contributing to environmental conservation.

  1. Physical
    The physical properties of soil play a critical role in its health. These properties include soil texture, structure, compaction, and water-holding capacity. Soil texture refers to the proportions of sand, silt, and clay particles in the soil. A balanced texture allows for adequate water drainage and retention, preventing waterlogging and drought stress. Soil structure influences root penetration, aeration, and nutrient movement. Healthy soil structure promotes a friable and well-drained medium for plant growth.
  2. Chemical
    Soil chemistry directly affects nutrient availability and plant growth. Key chemical factors include soil pH, nutrient content, and the presence of contaminants. Soil pH measures the soil's acidity or alkalinity and profoundly influences nutrient uptake by plants. Nutrient content, including macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, must be in balance to support healthy plant growth. Monitoring and maintaining proper nutrient levels through fertilization are essential for maximizing crop yields and preventing nutrient deficiencies.
  3. Biological
    The biological component of soil health pertains to the diverse array of microorganisms, insects, and other organisms that inhabit the soil ecosystem. These organisms play crucial roles in nutrient cycling, organic matter decomposition, and disease suppression. Soil microorganisms break down organic matter, releasing nutrients that are subsequently made available to plants. A rich and diverse soil microbiome contributes to enhanced nutrient availability and plant resilience against diseases.

Our Soil Tests

We provide a range of soil tests from basic chemistry, to texture/infiltration rate, all the way to biology.

Order a Soil Test Kit

Basic Soil Health Test

The Basic Soil Health Test is an excellent starting point for understanding your soil's condition. It offers a comprehensive analysis encompassing pH levels, nutrient content, CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity), salts, and organic matter. This budget-friendly test is ideal for identifying potential soil health issues and establishing a solid foundation for further management.

Full Chemistry Test

Our Full Chemistry Test provides a detailed assessment of your soil's quality, guiding you towards healthy and sustainable soil management practices. Through an extensive analysis, we examine macro and micronutrient levels, pH, CEC, organic matter, and salinity. This comprehensive understanding empowers us to create tailored recommendations for soil amendments and treatments, optimized for the specific plants you intend to cultivate. By optimizing your soil's chemistry, you can expect to foster more robust and vibrant plant growth.

Complete Soil Health Test

Uncover a deeper understanding of your soil's health with the Complete Soil Health Test. This comprehensive analysis goes beyond the basics, measuring nutritional factors and examining soil texture. It covers macro and micronutrients, organic matter, pH, CEC, as well as sand, silt, and clay percentages. Additionally, we assess carbon sequestration levels, providing you with a holistic view of your soil's composition. The personalized recommendations derived from this test empower you to make precise adjustments to enhance your soil's health and productivity.

MWELO Soil Management Report

For those navigating California's MWELO guidelines, our MWELO Soil Management Report is an indispensable resource. This report not only ensures compliance but also promotes sustainable and thriving landscapes. It includes comprehensive data such as soil texture, infiltration rate, pH, total soluble salts, sodium content, and organic matter percentage. With amendment recommendations, optionally tailored to specific plant types, and annual maintenance tips, you'll be equipped to create landscapes that are both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible.

Heavy Metals

The Heavy Metals analysis is a vital tool in assessing potential soil contamination. Given the uncertain history of properties, this analysis identifies the presence of heavy metals that might have accumulated due to past activities or nearby industrial sources. With results available in approximately nine business days, you'll gain insights to ensure the safety and health of your soil.

Soil Food Web

Explore the intricate world beneath the surface with our Soil Food Web analysis. By estimating population sizes of essential trophic groups—bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes—we unveil the microbiological health of your soil. Additionally, we identify specific organisms within these groups, providing insights into the soil's successional level and overall condition. This analysis is applicable to soil, compost, and compost tea samples, offering a holistic perspective on your soil's biological vitality.

Pesticide Screening

The Pesticide Screening can detect hundreds on common pesticides that may have been applied or drifted from nearby sources.

Herbicide Screening

The Herbicide Screening plays an important role in ensuring the safety of your soil and plants. By detecting the presence of herbicide residues, this test can indicated whether a soil has had history of herbicide applications.

See our other tests.

Regenerative Soil Management Practices

Working with nature to improve soil means implementing practices like cover cropping, mulching, and composting.

Cover Cropping

Cover cropping involves planting specific crops during non-growing seasons to cover and protect the soil. These crops enhance soil structure, prevent erosion, suppress weeds, and provide organic matter when incorporated into the soil. Leguminous cover crops also contribute nitrogen fixation, enriching soil fertility naturally. Cover cropping is a sustainable method that improves soil health and biodiversity.

Mulching

Mulching entails covering the soil surface with organic materials like straw, leaves, or wood chips. Mulch conserves soil moisture, moderates temperature fluctuations, suppresses weeds, and prevents soil erosion. As the mulch breaks down, it contributes organic matter, enriching the soil's structure and fertility. Mulching is an effective and easy way to maintain soil health.

Composting

Composting transforms organic waste into nutrient-rich compost. Incorporating compost into the soil enhances its structure, moisture retention, and fertility. Compost also introduces beneficial microorganisms that aid in nutrient cycling and disease suppression. Composting not only reduces waste but also revitalizes soil, making it an essential component of sustainable gardening.

Water Conservation Techniques

Implementing water-efficient practices such as drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, and utilizing drought-resistant plants minimizes water use and reduces soil erosion. Conserving water in landscapes maintains soil moisture, supports plant growth, and sustains overall soil health. Water conservation techniques are vital for responsible gardening in arid and water-scarce regions.

If you have any questions feel free to get in touch with the Alluvial Soil Lab team at (831) 216-1367 or at info@alluvialsoillab.com

This page was written with the help of AI.

  • Free (Grant-based) Soil Testing Through NRCS an...

    The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) stand as key pillars in fostering soil health and nutrient management practices within agricultural landscapes. While EQIP...

    Free (Grant-based) Soil Testing Through NRCS an...

    The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) stand as key pillars in fostering soil health and nutrient management practices within agricultural landscapes. While EQIP...

  • The Haney Soil Test: Everything You Should Know

    In the realm of agriculture, nurturing soil health stands as the cornerstone of sustainable farming practices. Enter the Haney Soil Test, a pioneering tool revolutionizing soil assessment by delving beyond...

    The Haney Soil Test: Everything You Should Know

    In the realm of agriculture, nurturing soil health stands as the cornerstone of sustainable farming practices. Enter the Haney Soil Test, a pioneering tool revolutionizing soil assessment by delving beyond...

  • Parasitic Nematodes in California Vineyards and...

    Soil parasitic nematodes are a diverse group of microscopic roundworms that inhabit the soil and can have significant impacts on agriculture, including vineyards. These nematodes are found in almost all...

    Parasitic Nematodes in California Vineyards and...

    Soil parasitic nematodes are a diverse group of microscopic roundworms that inhabit the soil and can have significant impacts on agriculture, including vineyards. These nematodes are found in almost all...

1 of 3