The short answer is that soil conditioner is one of three basic soil amendments, which include: fertilizer, inoculants, and conditioners. When you are aiming for that lush, green lawn, it can be too easy to keep adding fertilizer. Inoculants and conditioners also play key roles. Before we dig deeper into the specifics of soil conditioners, we first want to summarize fertilizer and inoculants so you have a good idea of how the three work together for optimal lawn health.
Fertilizers. This is the soil amendment that adds nutrients for plants, including turf, trees, shrubs, and more. Fertilizers can be either synthetic or organic.
Inoculants. These are soil amendments that introduce biological elements to the soil to help better the soil food ecosystem. Often, these biological elements center on fungi or bacteria, but they can also contain other beneficial biological elements, such as nematodes, which are key in both the carbon cycle and nitrogen cycle. In short, this type of biology plays a very important (and often overlooked) role in your soil’s growing capacity.
Conditioners. Conditioners, in the most basic sense, are amendments that you can add to soil to change its soil properties. More directly, it changes the soil’s actual physical structure; however, that is just one component of a soil conditioner. The soil properties effected by a good soil conditioner can include: cation exchange capacity, soil compaction (e.g., its water holding capacity), and soil pH.
To be sure, there are certainly soil amendments that can fulfill the role of fertilizers, inoculants, and conditioners. This is why knowing the difference between the three can help you get the right product for your situation.
The primary benefit of soil conditioners is in repairing damaged soil. After all, without good soil quality, your ability to have the yard you want is really compromised. Soil compaction is a natural occurrence over time, but it really hinders your yard’s ability to absorb water and nutrients. This is where a soil conditioner can be beneficial. In many cases, you’ll want to mix your soil and soil conditioner together before you plant. Some conditioners, though, do a better job when applied after planting. You will want to check labels to make sure you are getting the one that suits your particular needs in this respect.
Often soil conditioners will contain organic matter, namely plant and animal matter, that is in some stage of decomposition. This matter is commonly referred to as compost. When you add this compost to your soil, it starts decomposing right away and delivers another food source for beneficial microorganisms in your soil. When these microorganisms have this food source, they thrive as well. When they die, they become a part of your soil’s organic composition, providing another layer of benefit. The eventual end to this process concludes with something called Humus—which is not to be confused with hummus, that delicious pita chip topper! Humus, rather, is a very dark-colored soil-like product. Humus, itself, is beneficial as it helps to bond other nutrients in the soil and improve its ability to hold water. That’s because, when soil loses its organic matter over time and compaction prevents water absorption, the biology in the soil suffers. With fewer of those biological elements in the soil, the more difficult time your turf, plants, flowers, and more have of growing to their full potential.
In the end, having good looking plant life is not just about fertilizing. If you are at a point where you think you need to fertilize, you might also want to consider inoculants and/or conditioners. Just like humans, the ability to have a balanced diet that can be properly absorbed is key to good health.
There are a number of different ways to get your lawn looking great. If you aren’t sure the best course of action, E.P.M. Lawnscape and Supply has a team of grounds maintenance professionals who take pride in a good looking lawn. Feel free to contact us online today or give us a call at (517) 990-0110!