Is Soil an Antidepressant – Does it Make You Feel Good?

The meme pictured below has been making the rounds on social media and it gets quick acceptance by readers. As gardeners we all know that being in the garden or going for a walk in nature makes us feel good. Finally science agrees with us and has even found the root cause for these feelings of euphoria: serotonin.

People agree with the meme quickly because it supports their exiting beliefs but they have no basis for their existing beliefs.

But let’s face it – a meme is not scientific proof. What does the science really say?

Is Soil an Antidepressant - Does it Make You Feel Good?
Is Soil an Antidepressant – Does it Make You Feel Good?

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Soil and Compost – Selecting the Right One

You are in the market for some soil or compost and you visit the local nursery or big box store. There are so many products to choose from. Which one is the right one? Should you buy soil, or triple mix, or compost? Or is potting soil the right product to buy?

In this post I will try to sort out this confusion and show you which product to use for different types of jobs.

Planting trees - Soil profile showing top soil (layer O + A)
Planting trees – Soil profile showing top soil (layer O + A)

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Topsoil, Compost, Triple Mix – What’s the Difference?

Go to any garden center and you will find a large range of products that all look like soil. Many names are used including topsoil, triple mix, compost, potting soil, black garden soil, peat moss and garden soil. What is the difference between all of these products? It can be very confusing.

Some of these products are marked as certified. What does that mean? What kind of guarantee do ‘certified’ soil products offer the consumer?

These and more dirty topics will be discussed in this blog post.

TopSoil, Compost, Triple Mix - What's the Difference?
Components of Ideal Soil, by GardenFundamentals.com

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Soil Bacteria – The Myth of Identification & Management

Bacteria are a vital part of soil and the health of plants, so it is no wonder that there is a lot of talk about keeping soil bacteria healthy, increasing their numbers, having the right kind of bacteria, and so on. It only makes sense that if bacteria are important for plants, gardeners should (a) know more about them and (b) learn to manage them properly.

Unfortunately, along with good practical information, you will also find quite a few soil bacteria myths. The one I’d like to discuss today deals with the idea that you can figure out which type of bacteria you have. Armed with this information, you can then manage the populations to increase the ones that are most beneficial for your plants.

Soil bacteria staring back at you under a microscope
Soil bacteria staring back at you through a microscope

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Humus Does not Exist – Says New Study

As a gardener we all talk about humus. Some of us even buy humus soil, and humic substances like humic acid and fulvic acid. We add compost to gardens to increase the humus level in our soils in the belief that humus is good for soil. Good garden soil is dark because of the high humus content.

If there is one thing all gardeners agree on, it is that humus is good for the garden – right?

Maybe not!

Science now says our beliefs about humus may be wrong. In this blog I will review some earth shattering news – or is that soil shattering news?

humus Contentious Nature of Soil Organic Matter
Humus Does Not Exist – Says New Study: The Contentious Nature of Soil Organic Matter, by Johannes Lehmann & Markus Kleber, published in Nature

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Fertilizer – What Do Plants Need

In my post Fertilizer: Selecting the Right NPK Ratio, I explained that you don’t feed plants – you feed the soil. Your job as a gardener is to add missing nutrients to the soil. If the soil contains all the nutrients plants need to live – the plants will do well.

The answer to the question, what fertilizer do plants need, is very simple. They need any nutrient that is deficient in the soil. If your soil is not deficient of nutrients – you do NOT need to fertilize.

But how do we know which nutrient(s) is deficient in the soil? I’ll try to answer this question in this post. In order to do that, we need to better understand what nutrients do in the soil.

fertilizer woodchips
One of the best fertilizers – mulch with wood chips

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Fertilizer Garden Myths

A lot of the stuff on the internet is garbage when it comes to gardening advice. I am not surprised about that since many people just repeat what they have heard and give it very little thought. Some garden writers don’t actually do much gardening – they are writers, not gardeners. I rarely believe information unless it comes from experts in a field, government sites or published research articles.

This post is about an information guideline on fertilizers and soil amendments which is published by a government source – one you should be able to trust. Unfortunately it is full of incorrect or misleading advice. Let’s have a look at some fertilizer gardening myths.

fertilizer garden myths; Lobelia cardinalis X Lobelia siphilitica, by Robert Pavlis
Lobelia cardinalis X Lobelia siphilitica, grows just fine without added fertilizer, by Robert Pavlis

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Eggshells – Do They Decompose in the Garden – 5 Year Study

The advice to add egg shells to the garden or compost pile is very common. In my last post I looked at some evidence that suggested eggshells do not break down in a compost pile or in soil – at least not very quickly. The one exception where eggshells do break down is very finely ground eggshells added to acidic soil .

How quickly do eggshells break down in soil? Is it 6 months or 5 years? Maybe it’s 100 years? No one seems to know. In this post I will describe a 6 year study that has been started to find out if eggshells decompose in that period of time.

Eggshells - Do They Decompose In The Garden 1
Eggshells – Do They Decompose In The Garden – supplies, by Robert Pavlis

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Eggshells – Do They Decompose In The Garden?

Lots of people add eggshells to the garden or compost pile. It is claimed that they add important calcium to the soil for plants. Is this true? How well do they decompose? What happens to them in a compost pile? Do they add any value to the garden?

Eggshells - Do They Decompose In The Garden
Eggshells that have been sitting in the garden for more than 3 years, by Robert Pavlis

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Compost Creates Acidic Soil

Does compost make acidic soil? It is a common claim made for compost but does it really work? Is it a good option for making alkaline soil more acidic? Let’s have a closer look.

does compost acidify soil
Compost pH madness – does compost acidify soil?

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Compost Adds Enzymes and Hormones

One of the claimed benefits of compost in the garden is to provide the soil and plants with enzymes and hormones. Is this true? What would enzymes and hormones do for the garden? Good questions in the quest to understand compost better.

compost enzymes
Compost enzyme converts larger molecule (green substrate) to two smaller ones (products)

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