HORTICULTURAL PROFESSIONAL

Plant Care

Soil

soil

When planning your landscape plantings, it is best to know what soil type you are planting into, before you ever purchase a plant at the garden center.

Get out into your yard with a shovel and start digging. Soils can be simply classified into three types – sandy, clay or loam. We all can’t have beautiful loamy soils, and in some cases, you’ll have a combination of all three types in your yard. If you are unsure what your soil really is, put some in a bag and take it into your garden center or your local Extension service, and they can analyze it for you. You may even want to have a soil test done to check the pH (which is the acidity or alkalinity of your soil) and nutrient levels.

One simple way to check your own soil is to dig a hole and grab a handful of soil. Now make a tight ball with your fists, trying to compact the soil. Then, open up your fist. If the soils fall apart and through your fingers, you have a light, sandy soil. If your soil turns into a rock-hard ball that you can hardly pull apart, you have a heavy clay soil. And if you have something inbetween, you have some nice loamy soil.

Once you know what your soils are like, you can then choose plants that are appropriate for your soil. If you have light sandy soils, you’ll want to choose plants that are more tolerant of dry soils. Conversely, if you have heavy clay soils which hold lots of water, you’ll need to choose plants that are more tolerant of wet soils.

The prevailing opinion these days is that amending soil by adding lots of peat moss, compost, manure, etc., is not that beneficial to plants. You certainly can add these amendments, but it's probably not worth your time or money to totally dig out your old soil and start anew. Add these amendments sparingly, and allow your properly selected plants to adapt to your natural soils.