Have You Tasted Your Dirt Recently?

Many homeowners inherit a compacted soil from the building process which is poorly aerated, has little water absorption and minimal nutrient value. This is an ideal habitat for weed!  Add in a history of synthetic fertilizers and chemical use, and the addition of these salts creates a wonderful environment for weeds – as well as salty tasting soil.


Weeds are meant to take over and build the soil in a disturbed environment. They are actually healing the soil in their evolutionary process! When a particular weed shows up it is an indication of a mineral or microorganism imbalance, possibly both.

Synthetic Fertilizers

All synthetic fertilizers are in the form of a salt which dissolve easily in water, making them highly available to the plant in large quantities. This produces the quick “green up.” After the synthetic fertilizer passes by the plant leaf and root, the plant is soon left hungry again. Imagine when you poor salt on anything full of water what happens: it dehydrates.


In addition, microorganisms can become imbalanced when they live on a nutritionally poor diet and in biologically dead soil. Ideally, soil and its web of organisms have evolved with plants to live symbiotically. The plant roots excrete sugars and proteins into the soil to attract and feed microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. In return, the organisms act as the “gut” for the plant, breaking down and pre-digesting complex nutrients and making them table ready for the plant to take up. When the plant needs different foods, it sends a chemical signal to the soil organisms to “fetch” whatever it may need. These necessary creatures are, like humans, mostly water and are quickly pickled when salts are regularly poured on them.

If having a green lawn and minimal weeds are important, plan on working with your landscaper or asking the staff here how to develop your soil over time. Assuming the soil is dead due to the use of “synthetic drugs,” there may be a transition period using both synthetic and organic products to repopulate all the beneficial microorganisms. In an organic landscape, the goal is to feed the soil, and let the soil take care of feeding the plant. In this process, the plant gets what it needs, when it needs it, providing the soil is fortified. Initially, this could mean frequent applications of organic fertilizer in a season to start providing the soil with microorganisms (nematodes, fungi, bacteria), nutrients and minerals. Bringing your soil into balance requires:

  • Time!  Be in there for the long haul

  • Spring and fall aeration including amending your soil with compost and sand

  • A transitional period of changing from synthetic to organic fertilizer

With the soil brought back to a state of health and balance, the weeds no longer have a job to do.  As in all things, understanding the parts means understanding the whole. With thanks and a link to Sustainable Growth Boise: www.sgidaho.com 

For help on the Trout Friendly program, contact Wood River Land Trust at www.woodriverlandtrust.org or our Trout Friendly partners (Link this to the New Partner’s Page)LINK