“Soil Apartments”: The 4 Key Components of Healthy Soil Structure

Some gardeners are lucky enough to have nearly perfect soil, but for most of us, that’s not the case. Imagine if you will, that the soil is a series of “soil apartments” underneath our feet: it’s where the behind under-the-scenes action helps everything above the ground flourish! Understanding the components of a healthy soil structure can help you manage the environment at your feet, and put on a good show.

Soil Composition: What is your soil made of? Soils are comprised of weathered rock and minerals, organic matter, organisms, water, and air. All of these components are crucial for healthy plant growth.

  • Mineral Soil: Minerals are the structure of our metaphorical soil apartments and provides the playground for materials to move. Mineral soil is composed of sand, silt and clay particles. It’s what forms the texture of the soil.
  • Organisms: These are the dwellers of our happy soil apartment homes. These are the friendly organisms such as worms, insects, bacteria, fungi and nematodes that help add nutrients to your soil. They facilitate getting nutrients to the plants and also create air pockets in the soil.
  • Organic Matter: Organic matter is like snack packs scattered throughout the soil apartments, especially in the top layers.  Specifically, organic matter is decomposed organic material such as leaves, wood chips, food scraps, grass clippings, and other vegetative matter. Although organic matter often only makes up 5 to 10 percent of the soil, it is absolutely essential for plant growth! Organic matter is basically the food for microorganisms and other forms of soil life. Food is important; make sure to feed your gardens with organic matter to give them an extra boost!
  • Water & Air: Finally, the components we rarely consider yet are absolutely essential for soil health: air and water. It’s the ductwork and plumbing that gets everything flowing. Healthy soil is about 25 percent air and 25 percent water. This is needed for organisms to survive.