Want to have a more productive backyard garden? A soil test to determine the lime and fertilizer requirements for what you’d like to grow in your soil is a great start. But adequate chemical conditions can’t create an ideal growing environment if other soil conditions are lacking.

If your land has decent drainage and your garden receives adequate sunlight, but your backyard garden still isn’t as productive as you think it should be, take a good look at your soil, and really get your hands and fingers into it. The best soil for most plant growth is dark, crumbly and spongy, with plenty of worms and other critters you can’t easily see. Signs of a less-than-healthy soil for plant growth are a light brown or gray color, a heavy feel due to a lack of airy soil pores, and soil that stays in large compacted clumps without breaking up into smaller aggregates.

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