Soil is key to a successful landscape


Not all soil is created equal.

Soil serves many important functions in an ecosystem. In your landscape, soil is the medium in which your plants grow. USDA’s National Resources Conservation Services notes that quality soils perform five functions at the same time:

  • Soils act like sponges, soaking up rainwater and limiting runoff. Soils also impact ground-water recharge and flood-control potentials in urban areas.
  • Soils act like faucets, storing and releasing water and air for plants and animals to use.
  • Soils act like supermarkets, providing valuable nutrients and air and water to plants and animals. Soils also store carbon and prevent its loss into the atmosphere.
  • Soils act like strainers or filters, filtering and purifying water and air that flow through them.
  • Soils buffer, degrade, immobilize, detoxify, and trap pollutants, such as oil, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals, and keep them from entering ground-water supplies. Soils also store nutrients for future use by plants and animals above ground and by microbes within the soils.


Much of Colorado’s soil is heavy clay and can be alkaline.To support the trees, shrubs, and other plants we enjoy in our urban landscapes, our soil may need some help. You can’t change the temperature, wind, or dry air we see in our state, but you can amend the soil to make it more hospitable to plant life.

The Soil, Water and Plant Testing Laboratory at Colorado State University can perform a soil test to help you determine what needs to be done to improve soil health in your landscape. You can pick up a test kit at a local hardware store and mail your sample for analysis.

Talk with your landscape professional about the best amendments for your particular soil type.Common amendments include mulch and compost—but be careful, as some composts can be high in salt. Learn what is in your compost before purchasing.

Fun fact: It takes at least 100 years—or as many as 500 years—to form an inch of topsoil. With so much time and so much life involved, we owe it to our soil to take good care of it.

This entry was posted in Gardens