Healthy Beginnings

Embrace living soils for healthy growing for Sierra’s spring season

Full Circle customer Amy grew this amazing, award winning garden in 2017 in Carson City, using just quality soil, compost and water.

Spring is right around the corner, and it’s almost time we get back to gardening and landscaping here in Northern Nevada.

The love of gardening and landscaping has always been about creating your own healthy food and watching the fruits of your labor flourish in your own backyard. Making your neighbors jealous of your beautiful yard and bountiful garden is just an extra perk!

In Nevada, the overall “growing” part of having a successful garden and lush landscape is a little tougher due to our climate. We have a limited growing window that is always plagued with early and late frosts.

We also face a challenge with the lack of biology and nutrition in Nevada soil. In this article, let’s chat about sustainable living soils and how you can overcome obstacles to grow a bountiful garden and beautiful landscape.

Healthy growing all starts with sustainable living soils. Achieving BIG and nutritious harvests all starts with what your plants and veggies are growing in, the soil!

Nevada soil inherently lacks nutrition and biology. But, you can build nutrition and biology sustainably in your own backyard. Your goal is to create a living soil.

What is a living soil? Soil that comes packed with its own biology and nutrition so it will continue to sustain growth long term by breaking down plant matter all by itself.

For Nevada soil, this means you need:


You do not want to overdo it all at once. It is in our human nature to think, “If I put on loads of manure, woodchips, straw and other stuff all at once, this has to be good.”

In reality, it’s not! Nevada soil does not have the “digestive capacity” to eat raw materials. You have to “pre-turn” the materials into “food” that our Nevada soil can eat and then provide nutrition directly to the plants.

Think of Nevada soil as a fussy baby. You cannot give a baby a raw carrot to eat. You have to cook it, blend it, and make it into baby food because they can only handle food that’s easy to consume and digest.

Nevada soils are the same. Due to our arid climate and lack of biology, you need to give the soil “baby food.”


The sustainable way of doing this is to give your soil small amounts of quality made compost (humus) that has been fully broken down by an approved composting program such as the U.S. Compost Council Seal Of Testing Assurance program (Shhhhhhh! There is only 1 compost site in Northern Nevada that is approved by this program!).

This compost will have been digested by microbes first and put into a form your soil (and plants) can work with. Look to find quality compost made out of recycled materials from your own local area.

If the compost is made from local ingredients, it will have a similar biological fingerprint to the native soil. If you are bringing in compost made from organic waste that is from an ecosystem far away (like another state), our soil may find it foreign and might not know what to do with it.

Also, you need to watch out for cheap compost that may have harmful materials (like human waste, YUCK!).


Let’s talk mineral nutrition: Organic matter and compost only bring certain food to your soil, which then goes on to feed your plants.

To create sustainable living soil full of nutrition that will then go into your food and landscapes, you need to give the microbes and the plants the “stuff” they crave. This is a buffet of minerals and nutrients that need to be added to the compost you apply to your soil.

Microbes and plants crave calcium, magnesium, sulfur, manganese, boron, iron, copper, nitrogen, phosphorus and other elements. The bigger the buffet, the more choices you’re giving your plants.

Look for quality compost that is also focusing on macro- and micro-nutrition to bring more overall nutrition to the soil that will then transfer to the plant.


How do you know if your soil will perform this spring and give you a bountiful harvest? How do you know if the compost and soil amendments have all the yummy minerals your plants crave?

You need to get a comprehensive soil analysis with recommendations on how to “fix” your garden and landscape soil. You also need to only buy compost and soil products from suppliers that can provide soil tests on their products.

This crucial step is just like getting a blood test for your overall health. It tells you what is good, what is bad and how to change it!

We’ve shared this information to help you create a more sustainable and nutritious garden this year for your family. Please reach out to us with any questions, tips or tricks at or at 775-267-5305.

Craig Witt is a farmer and soil enthusiast who owns Full Circle Soils & Compost, a Minden-based company that has plenty of locations throughout Northern Nevada. Visit to learn more.