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Organic Soil

Over the course of 37 years of landscaping in Montana it has been crystal clear to us that amending planting soil with organic matter is a smart gardening practice.

Unless you have fabulous soil to start with, its addition will most definitely give a healthy boost to your plantings, including vegetable and flower beds, trees and shrubs. Organic matter should not be confused with fertilizer, which it is not. Rather, it's a soil improver. And whether your soil is sandy, clayey, or rocky, organic matter will enhance plant growth. (Some native plants are an exception to this rule as they prefer soil as it comes rather than amended.) So don't put the cart before the horse - amend first, then plant! 

Where to find organic amendments? Our first suggestion is to make your own compost - it's fun, cost-free, and easy to turn kitchen and garden waste into what many consider "gardener's gold". There's much satisfaction derived from producing a valuable product from waste materials, it's environmentally friendly, and your plants will thank you with superior production.

Well rotted manure is an option that will improve soil, but it often comes laced with weeds that must be eliminated, and this can be terribly time consuming. Another concern with manure is that it's often high in salt, which is not good for most plants. An alternative is to purchase sterilized compost or steer manure from a nursery. It comes bagged, weed-free, and ready to use. What you should not use are uncomposted sawdust or woodchips. They're often free for the taking, but beware - they'll cost you in the end because they'll rob your soil of precious nitrogen and in so doing make your plants sickly and yellow.

So take the time to plant in enhanced organic soil to ensure success, and in the process your plants will think they've found Nirvana.

For more information on composting check out the Home Composting Guide from Montana State University Extension.

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