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Nurture the Soil

Good healthy soil is more than just DIRT! It also includes air, water, organic matter, and living organisms. The right balance results in healthy plants, the wrong balance results in sick or dead plants!

Soil Components

DIRT (mineral particles)
Soil is generally described by the size of its mineral particles: clay, silt, or sand. Sand is the largest, clay the smallest, with silt in between. Sand drains quickly and holds few nutrients. Clay holds water well, drains poorly, and is more nutrient-rich.
Get to know your soil.
Air and water fill in the spaces between the mineral particles. They are essential in transporting nutrients to plants and carrying away waste. Too little room between mineral particles results in compacted soil and unhealthy plants.
Soil organisms include bacteria, fungi, worms, and other beneficial organisms. These organisms are essential for plant growth — they improve soil structure, make nutrients available, protect from pests, improve water availability, and filter out pollutants.

Creating Healthy Soil


Download the RFL Mulch & Grasscycling Guide

Following these guidelines will result in a healthier landscape:

  • Mulch and grasscycle regularly. Covering the soil with mulch conserves water, prevents erosion, and suppresses weeds. In addition, organic mulch improves soil texture and adds nutrients. To learn more, download the River-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Mulch & Grasscycling.
  • Prevent soil compaction. Walk on garden beds as little as possible, keep heavy equipment and cars off lawns, and minimize the use of rototillers. Compacted soils prevent air and water circulation, thereby smothering plant roots.
  • Protect soil from erosion. Trees, shrubs, and mulch help limit soil erosion. Erosion washes away valuable topsoil and pollutes downstream habitat.
  • Don’t overwater. Filling soil spaces with water keeps air from plant roots which can promote disease.
  • Limit the use of pesticides. Pesticides can kill beneficial soil organisms as well as pests.
  • Conserve topsoil. Topsoil includes organic matter and living organisms that plants need to thrive.

The Seven Principles of
River-Friendly Landscaping

Click on any section to learn more

Is your landscape River-Friendly?
Use our benefits calculator to find out.

Here are some more in depth articles on specific RFL topics that you might find of interest:

Contest Winner

RFL Inspiration Garden

RFL Examples

Rain Gardens

Mulch, Grasscycling, and Compost

Get Mulching

Fertilize Naturally — Is Feeding Frenzy Really Needed?

Plant Trees, Save Energy!

Right Plant, Right Place!

Plant Selection

Plant Communities

Take Action to Save Water Outdoors…

Lawn Care: How Green is Your Grass?

Rethink Your Lawn

Pests Bugging You?

River-Friendly Pest Control

Managing Common Pests

Good Bugs

Interview about RFL (MP3)

Choose California natives first

Don't Blow It!

Reducing Outdoor Asthma Triggers


Watch the YouTube video
"Slow the Flow - Make Your Landscape Act Like a Sponge"
to learn about the importance of landscaping to stormwater quality.