The Dirt On Roots: Lesson 1

By Michael Leach

“Amend the soil” appears as a commandment in almost every gardening how-to book and article. For good reason. Roots are work horses ensuring a plant’s survival.

Granted the leaves and flowers attract all the attention and are the make-or-break for inclusion in a decorative scheme. Plus they are an essential in the plant’s survival kit. Leaves make the food. Flowers make seeds. But without the roots, that amazing leafy food factory shuts down and flowers wither. End of story.

Gardeners, however, can make a happy ending by providing a pleasant working environment for roots, which take in most of the water, nutrients — and oxygen. Adding compost, leaf mold, rotted barnyard manure, shredded leaves and such helps loosen the soil allowing more air, water and nutrients to penetrate and be available to the roots.

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