One of the most important, but often overlooked aspects of planting landscape and garden beds are soil amendments and soil preparation. The plants in your garden need numerous nutrients to grow healthy and provide blooms, fruits and vegetables. Your plant’s source for these nutrients is the soil around their roots. We cannot see below the soil surface when a plant is growing, but if we could, the root system of a plant is almost always a mirror image of its health. Thriving and vigorous plants will have large root systems that are always growing. This enables plants to survive extreme weather conditions and disease and insect attacks. With proper soil amendments, your plants will grow even more rapidly with bigger flowers and stronger stems! Here is a guide on how to improve your garden soil.
Early spring is the perfect time to start adding soil amendments to your garden because it’s before your first plantings. It’s important to first determine the type of soil that you are working with so that you can amend it properly. Is it heavy clay (most of Akron is), sandy or a good loam mix? If you are not sure, you can test this by taking a clump of soil that is not saturated and squeeze it in your fist.
The results will be:
- Heavy clay soil that holds together in a clump when pressure is added.
- Sandy soil falls that apart loosely when gripped.
- Loamy soil which crumbles when squeezed.
Improve your Garden Soil
If you have heavy clay soil: Amend your soil by adding organic Sweet Peet or Bark Soil Conditioner. They are two products that are made up of organic matter and finely ground bark. They will break up the clay and add organic matter and nutrients.
If you have sandy soil: Your soil will greatly benefit from the water holding properties of peat moss or a compost mix. This will allow your soil to retain nutrients for the plant.
If you have loose, loamy soil: It is best for you to add light Sweet Peet or homemade compost to increase the organic matter and nutrient content of your soil.
How the Add the Amendments
NEW GARDEN BEDS: Incorporate the amendments into the new soil of your garden bed as best you can (up to 12”) before you plant. If possible, use a tiller to do this. If not, mix it in with a shovel. We recommend watering the bed a few days beforehand to make the soil easier to work with. You don’t want the soil wet, but moist.
EXISTING GARDEN BEDS: Mix the amendments into the soil around existing plants and shrubs using a trowel or shovel. Then put a light layer of the amendments on the soil’s surface and let the rain (or snow) work the soil amendment in over time. Even though this method is slower, it will work well.
Soil Amendments and Fertilizer Work Together
It is extremely important to note that soil amendments do not take the place of fertilizer. Soil amendments help the fertilizer work more efficiently. If you have a garden bed that is struggling or if you’re starting in a new area it is always advisable to do a soil test to check the pH of the soil. We carry free test kits from Calmar laboratories which you mail in with a sample for a fee. You could also purchase a pH meter to test it yourself. The mail in test is more complete, but either will work.
We look forward to seeing you in the store soon to answer any questions that you may have!