How to Prepare Your Garden Soil


Whole books have been written on the subject! However, the main points the new gardener needs to be concerned with are soil depth, soil texture, soil acidity and soil nutrient levels — plus soil management. Topsoil Check the depth of good topsoil by digging down and leaving a vertical profile exposed to view. The darker, fertile layer extending from the surface down­wards gives the clue. How soon does it change to a paler, less fertile subsoil? Soil acidity Aim to discover if the soil is acid or alkaline or somewhere between the two extremes. Many plants, such as rhododendrons and camellias, are likely to be unhealthy unless grown in acid soil. Others, like the cabbage family, are unhealthy and disease prone unless grown in alkaline, well limed soils.

Soil acidity can easily be checked at home using a ‘soil test kit’. These kits are simple to use if you follow the maker’s instructions. Briefly, soil samples are taken from various parts of the garden and, after removing stones, weeds and the like, are mixed thoroughly together. A small quantity of this mixture is then shaken up with a chemical and the resulting colour is compared with a colour chart. The degree of acidity or alkalinity is usually expressed as soil pH, where 7 is neutral, below 7 is acid and above is alkaline. The vast majority of garden plants grow happily in average soil with a pH of between 5.5 and 7.5; problems begin when the degree of acidity falls outside this range.

Garden Soil

Soil texture too is very important. Sandy, gritty soils are easy to dig and work; they are normally free draining; and they warm up quickly in spring. However, on the debit side, they dry out quickly in summer, and hold little in the way of nutrient reserves. Heavy clay soils are difficult to work, so timing is all important. They must not be worked when they are over wet or over dry, or they will be even more difficult to cope with. These soils become iron hard and crack badly when dry. They are sticky and greasy to the touch when wet. In spring these are cold soils, and they warm up only slowly. Water is slow to drain away after heavy or prolonged rain.

Soil management In practice the treatment of all soils is basically the same: generous manuring and mulching are the keys to success, and provided generous amounts of manure are applied, even the heaviest soil will be improved in time.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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