How to manage soil and nutrients in yards and gardens
The nutrients in your soil are what feed your plants and can determine whether you have a healthy lawn, flourishing trees or a bumper crop of zucchini.
Before starting any yard or garden project, we recommend having your soil tested by the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Lab. They will let you know if your soil needs added nutrients depending on what you want to plant. We also have a step-by-step video that shows how to test your soil.
- Quick guide to fertilizing plants
- Fertilizing and watering container plants
- Soil Test Interpretations and Fertilizer Management (2008; PDF) — This bulletin presents current fertilizer and lime recommendations for home lawns, vegetable and flower gardens, small fruits, tree fruits and ornamental trees and shrubs.
- Natural remedies may or may not be helpful in your garden. Learn more about Coffee grounds, eggshells and Epsom salts in the home garden.
- A lead test can tell you whether it is safe to garden directly in the soil. This is especially important in urban areas or near heavy industry. This video walks you through how to test your soil for lead, how to interpret results, and how to garden safely if lead is present.
Caring for your soil
Healthy soil is the foundation of thriving gardens, lawns, and landscapes. Read more about what makes a soil healthy on the page Living soil, healthy garden.
There are various practices you can use to improve the health of your soil:
- Cover crops and green manure in home gardens
- Composting in home gardens
- Composting and mulching (2000; PDF) — This guide explains the processes of composting and mulching. It gives instructions for building and maintaining a compost pile and for using compost in yards and gardens.
Water wisely — Start in your own backyard with smart watering tips for healthy lawns, gardens, trees and shrubs.