Is your grass looking a little sparse, garden not growing, or vegetable yields lower than expected? If so, poor soil quality might be to blame.

Having rich soil is critical to the healthy growth of most plants. So how can you improve your soil? Follow these five simple tips from the Homestead Gardens experts:

Start composting: By composting organic matter, you can readily have available the "black gold" that will improve soil quality and help your plants grow. Unlike fertilizer, compost has microorganisms in it that help aggregate the soil, which can help plants build stronger, longer roots.

Supplement: Add a soil conditioner like Bloom. Dark and earthy, Bloom is a class A biosolid that provides essential plant nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorous. Bloom is ideal for improving and establishing lawns, remediating poor soils, planting trees and shrubs, and establishing flower and vegetable gardens.

Get tested: A soil test can provide great insight into what steps you need to take to amend your soil. The results should assess pH, phosphate, potassium and magnesium levels. You can stop by a Homestead Gardens retail store for a University of Delaware Extension soil test kit. It is free from us, but a nominal fee will be required when you mail off for testing. Once results are mailed back, bring the 'report card' to our Diagnostics Desk where you can work with a Homestead Gardens pro to fix levels based on your goals for the space. For example, some vegetables like higher pH, but for most spaces pH should be neutral.

Add mulch: Organic mulches are a smart addition if soil health is your goal. Mulch cover can help soil retain moisture and protects against temperature extremes. Plus, precious microbes and earthworms feed on the mulch, which helps maintain soil quality as well. Bonus: Mulch can help limit weed growth.

Water wisely: Good soil will have not too little nor too much moisture. Assess the water situation in your planting areas. Do you get standing water after a rain? Is the area so dry the earth cracks? What would be the best drainage system and watering schedule? Quality soil should neither crumble like dry sand nor be muddy.

These are five easy ways to improve soil quality, but there are many other strategies. To learn more, ask a Homestead Gardens expert for insight today.

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