In time, organic gardening restores and maintains a healthy nutrient balance in the soil.
For home gardeners, therefore, the most important indicators of soil health are mulch, moisture and microbes.
The mulch must be appropriate for the ecosystem and properly stratified, with a coarse litter layer on top, the finer humus particles incorporating into the soil below.
While the surface of the coarse litter layer may be dry, below it the mulch should be “moist like a wrung out sponge” exactly the same conditions we are trying to achieve in our compost because this is the ideal moisture environment for microbes.
Finally, it needs to be teeming with life.
The upper few inches of the soil, which include the mulch layer, are habitat for the greatest biodiversity on land. Most of the organisms are too small to be seen without a microscope, but many insects and even some fungal strands can be seen with the bare eye or a simple magnifying glass. The greater the diversity, the better.
If we take care of this, Nature takes care of everything else.
In situations such as commercial agriculture or golf course maintenance a more in-depth soil analysis may be required, and the results interpreted by a qualified organic land care professional.
We go much deeper into this topic in our online course, which you can discover here: