Getting Started with Soil

Intro

When planting a garden outside in your yard the existing conditions will have a huge impact on the types of plants that will thrive. Soil is key ingredient for a successful garden. We are going to go over a few of the larger points to consider when looking at soil and some examples of soil types/preparations for specific flowers!


Basic Loam

To start out we should consider loam, which is a often the type of soil you want for your flower and veggie beds.

Loam is generally a non-coherent mixture of clay and sand with some decayed vegetable matter like leaves and/or the small fibrous roots of grasses. You can’t really go wrong with a good loam mix. You can keep in mind though that even sandy or clay soil can be useful depending on the plants you want to grow or soil improvements you are willing to make.

You want to always keep in mind the needs of the plants you are growing even with a high quality loam mix in your garden!


Drainage

Previously it was noted that even if you soil is not a loamy mix that doesn’t mean it needs to be replaced, but you should keep in mind that too much clay can cause issues with drainage, leaving plants water logged. Water logged plants may not have strong root growth and are at high risk for issues such as mold.

You can test the drainage by digging a hole in the garden and pouring enough water to fill the hole. The water should be easily absorbed. the quicker the water is absorbed and retained in the soil, leaving it moist, the better.


Soil Improvement or Replacement

If drainage is not an issue then the soil can be improved by the addition of manure, which in two or three years would make a huge impact in the soil health. Alternately, you can mix in a high quality commercially available compost which can go a long way to helping create the ideal mix of organic components in your soil.

To get the quickest results you can outline your garden beds and remove existing soil to a depth of about twenty inches. Then fill in with soil that matches the needs of the kinds of plants you want in each bed. This is labor intensive but a great way to be sure you are set up for success, also as long as you replenish the beds with organic matter and/or nutrients you will not need to repeat the removal of soil.


Soil for Flowers

Roses

In the beds for Roses some clay can be left in. If you have no clay in your soil at all you will have to add some each year, especially if you are adding a rich top soil to the beds every spring which will decrease the portion of clay.


Pansies

For a pansy bed, leaf-mould or other commercially available compost is a great asset. You can remove six or eight inches of existing soil and then spade in a healthy amount of high quality rich top soil followed by a top-dress with several inches of leaf-mould or compost. You should then have a bed that will be perfect for pansies.


Wrap up

It can take some investment but a good soil to start with can make all the difference in your gardening. Just remember that you want to be sure you are taking stock of what you start with and then you add the right components for the right plants. Good luck on your gardening adventure!


References

The Flower Garden, by Ida Dandridge Bennett - Chapter Two, Soils