Soils

Your soil is the most important part of your garden. Soil tests are a fantastic way to get a basis of what to do with your soil, and a few pointers outlined below will also help.

Understanding and Working with Your Soil

Soil Testing

Regular testing helps develop and maintain more productive soils for farming, gardening, and landscaping. Soil tests indicate whether plant nutrients are deficient and, if so, what amounts are needed for optimum growth. If you have recently relocated or your plants are not performing well, get a soil test!
Why and How Should I Get a Soil Test »

Research Articles

Search by topic of interest

Research
gardening
General
soil
Learn the basics of clay, silt and sand soils with an emphasis on gardening in soils with high sand content. Get tips for gardening tips for managing sandy soils, and the types of plants that grow best in sandy soils.
Gardening in Sandy Soils

Gardening in Sandy Soils

Learn the basics of clay, silt and sand soils with an emphasis on gardening in soils with high sand content. Get tips for gardening tips for managing sandy soils, and the types of plants that grow best in sandy soils.

General
gardening
Research
soil
This fact sheet covers the basics of clay, silt and sand soils with an emphasis on gardening in soils with a high clay content. It includes information on the composition of clay soils, gardening tips for managing clay soils, and the types of plants that
Gardening in Clay Soils

Gardening in Clay Soils

This fact sheet covers the basics of clay, silt and sand soils with an emphasis on gardening in soils with a high clay content. It includes information on the composition of clay soils, gardening tips for managing clay soils, and the types of plants that ...

General
Research
garden basics
soil
gardening
A great garden starts with healthy soil. In Utah, there are unique considerations for creating and maintaining healthy soils.
Preparing and Improving Garden Soil

Preparing and Improving Garden Soil

A great garden starts with healthy soil. In Utah, there are unique considerations for creating and maintaining healthy soils.

solutions
soil
gardening
Research
With so much interest in acid-loving plants like blueberry, azalea, silver maple, etc., many folks wish they could easily reduce their high, alkaline pH levels to accommodate them.
Why are my soils so alkaline? Can I lower my soil's pH?

Why are my soils so alkaline? Can I lower my soil's pH?

With so much interest in acid-loving plants like blueberry, azalea, silver maple, etc., many folks wish they could easily reduce their high, alkaline pH levels to accommodate them.

gardening
solutions
Research
soil
Compaction destroys soil structure and causes significant plant growth problems in Utah landscapes. It is normally caused by repeated foot or vehicle traffic over the same soil area.
Solutions to Soil Problems: IV. Soil Structure (compaction)

Solutions to Soil Problems: IV. Soil Structure (compaction)

Compaction destroys soil structure and causes significant plant growth problems in Utah landscapes. It is normally caused by repeated foot or vehicle traffic over the same soil area.

solutions
gardening
Research
soil
Utah soils are inherently low in organic matter due to the desert climate and historically low plant growth rates.
Solutions to Soil Problems V. Low Organic Matter

Solutions to Soil Problems V. Low Organic Matter

Utah soils are inherently low in organic matter due to the desert climate and historically low plant growth rates.

gardening
soil
fertilize
grass
Research
Homeowners recognize the need for timely nutrient applications to promote vigorous plant growth in landscapes and gardens. These nutrients may be supplied by either organic or inorganic fertilizers, or a combination of materials. Many nursery and garden s
Selecting and Using Organic Fertilizers

Selecting and Using Organic Fertilizers

Homeowners recognize the need for timely nutrient applications to promote vigorous plant growth in landscapes and gardens. These nutrients may be supplied by either organic or inorganic fertilizers, or a combination of materials. Many nursery and garden s...

gardening
Research
solutions
soil
Drainage is a common problem throughout Utah.
Solutions to Soil Problems III. Drainage

Solutions to Soil Problems III. Drainage

Drainage is a common problem throughout Utah.

solutions
soil
Research
gardening
The majority of soils in Utah are alkaline with an average pH of 8.0. Alkaline soils in Utah are the product of the alkaline parent materials that formed them and thousands of years of development in an arid (low rainfall) environment.
Solutions to Soil Problems II. High pH

Solutions to Soil Problems II. High pH

The majority of soils in Utah are alkaline with an average pH of 8.0. Alkaline soils in Utah are the product of the alkaline parent materials that formed them and thousands of years of development in an arid (low rainfall) environment.

solutions
Research
soil
gardening
Salinity is a measure of the total amount of soluble salts in soil. As soluble salt levels increase, it becomes more difficult for plants to extract water from soil. Some plants are more resistant than other’s, but as the salt levels exceed their ability
Solutions to Soil Problems I. High Salinity (soluble salts)

Solutions to Soil Problems I. High Salinity (soluble salts)

Salinity is a measure of the total amount of soluble salts in soil. As soluble salt levels increase, it becomes more difficult for plants to extract water from soil. Some plants are more resistant than other’s, but as the salt levels exceed their ability ...

sustainability
land
Research
soil
gardening
composting
Worm composting as it is more commonly known is the process of using worms to break down discarded food and other organic wastes and convert them into compost and liquid fertilizers.
Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting

Worm composting as it is more commonly known is the process of using worms to break down discarded food and other organic wastes and convert them into compost and liquid fertilizers.

Research
fertilize
soil
gardening
Urea usually has the lowest cost per pound of nitrogen compared to other single-element nitrogen fertilizers. However, urea undergoes unique chemical transformations when field applied and severe losses in efficiency may result if special management pract
Urea: A Low Cost Nitrogen Fertilizer with Special Management Requirements

Urea: A Low Cost Nitrogen Fertilizer with Special Management Requirements

Urea usually has the lowest cost per pound of nitrogen compared to other single-element nitrogen fertilizers. However, urea undergoes unique chemical transformations when field applied and severe losses in efficiency may result if special management pract...

Research
gardening
soil
fertilize
Each class of material has specific characteristics and management issues when it comes to using it as a soil amendment.
Are Organic Matter Soil Amendments Created Equal?

Are Organic Matter Soil Amendments Created Equal?

Each class of material has specific characteristics and management issues when it comes to using it as a soil amendment.

soil
fertilize
gardening
Research
The single best soil amendment—the one that provides desirable benefits regardless of the soil one applies it to—is organic matter.
It's All About Soil Structure!

It's All About Soil Structure!

The single best soil amendment—the one that provides desirable benefits regardless of the soil one applies it to—is organic matter.

sustainability
soil
Research
gardening
composting
land
The benefits of using compost as a soil amendment include increasing soil tilth, fertility, water holding capacity, aeration, and drainage.
Backyard Composting in Utah

Backyard Composting in Utah

The benefits of using compost as a soil amendment include increasing soil tilth, fertility, water holding capacity, aeration, and drainage.

soil
composting
gardening
Research
When properly managed, animal manures increase soil fertility, build soil organic matter, and sustainably cycle nutrients. However, knowing how much and when to apply manure is critical for long-term soil heath.
Sustainable Manure and Compost Application: Garden and Micro Farm Guidelines

Sustainable Manure and Compost Application: Garden and Micro Farm Guidelines

When properly managed, animal manures increase soil fertility, build soil organic matter, and sustainably cycle nutrients. However, knowing how much and when to apply manure is critical for long-term soil heath.

Research
soil
grass
fertilize
gardening
Homeowners recognize the need for timely fertilizer applications to enhance plant growth in landscapes and gardens. However, the number of different products on the market can be overwhelming. Nursery and garden supply stores commonly stock a dozen or mor
Selecting and Using Inorganic Fertilizers

Selecting and Using Inorganic Fertilizers

Homeowners recognize the need for timely fertilizer applications to enhance plant growth in landscapes and gardens. However, the number of different products on the market can be overwhelming. Nursery and garden supply stores commonly stock a dozen or mor...

soil
Research
General
gardening
The benefits of using compost as a soil amendment include increasing soil tilth, fertility, water holding capacity, aeration, and drainage.
Topsoil Quality Guidelines for Landscaping

Topsoil Quality Guidelines for Landscaping

The benefits of using compost as a soil amendment include increasing soil tilth, fertility, water holding capacity, aeration, and drainage.

soil
gardening
Research
A good garden soil is deep, loose, fertile, well-drained, near neutral, and has a lot of decayed organic matter. The ideal is seldom available, so the good gardener may have to improve what is at hand!
Preparing Garden Soil

Preparing Garden Soil

A good garden soil is deep, loose, fertile, well-drained, near neutral, and has a lot of decayed organic matter. The ideal is seldom available, so the good gardener may have to improve what is at hand!

Research
gardening
General
soil
Regular soil testing helps to develop and maintain more productive soils for farming, gardening, and landscaping. The purpose of this guide is to help you understand and interpret the results from a Utah State University soil test report. Additional Utah
Understanding Your Soil Test Report

Understanding Your Soil Test Report

Regular soil testing helps to develop and maintain more productive soils for farming, gardening, and landscaping. The purpose of this guide is to help you understand and interpret the results from a Utah State University soil test report. Additional Utah ...