A beautiful, thriving garden starts with the soil. Unfortunately, most landscapes don’t contain great soil. The soil is what feeds and nourishes plant life and if the soil is poor, the plants (vegetables and flowers) will perform poorly. Start with the dirt you’ve been dealt, then use these tips for both quick-fix and long-term solutions for amending poor garden soil.
The best solution for any soil type (clay, sand or rocky) is to add plenty of organic matter. Well-rotted cow manure, peat moss or compost will enable clay to drain more quickly, sand to retain water better and provide a growing medium for roots on top of rocks. In addition, organic matter will add nutrients and create an environment for worms and beneficial microorganisms to grow.
Forget Top Soil
A word about top soil- some novice gardeners consider top soil to be the perfect garden or flower bed amendment. It is not. It’s the soil which has been washed into lakes and rivers (silt) during heavy rains and is mined from the bottom of these bodies of water, dried, packaged and sold. All the nutrients have been washed out of the soil and is good for nothing other than adding volume. Spend your gardening money on beneficial organic matter.
Apply 2-4 inches of organic matter on top of the soil, then work it in with a tiller or shovel to the depth of 6-12 inches. Repeat this process every year for 3 years, then skip a year or two and apply as needed.
After the soil has been amended and plants or seeds planted, apply a layer of organic mulch, like shredded leaves, pine straw, tree bark or nut hulls to the soil’s surface. The organic mulch will keep soil moist, keep weeds at bay and will slowly decompose and add more nutrients to the garden soil.
If amending the soil repeatedly and waiting a few years is not something you have the patience or inclination for, then bring in new, fertile soil to your landscape. Dig out the old poor soil and replace it with blended mixes for planting beds and lawns. It already has the organic matter added in the proper proportions to support various types of vegetation.
If you want to fast track on a smaller scale, consider creating raised beds and adding new, fertile soil in the beds only. No need to dig out the poor soil, just create the raised beds, add new soil and plant flowers and vegetables.