Soil Quality

It’s all down to the earth

If you are serious about growing a beautiful garden, getting to know your soil, and finding out how to improve it, is absolutely vital. After the winter most garden soil is in poor condition especially if the winter has been particularly wet. The soil could be waterlogged especially if it has a high quantity of clay in the earth and the drainage is poor. In some cases the nutrients in the soil can have been washed away leaving the soil needing fertiliser to bring it up to scratch.

Garden soil varies depending on where you live. It may be chalky, sandy, stony, peaty or heavy clay and each of these types of soil can create its own issues for the gardener. There may be a good shallow layer of soil over something that is not ideal such as chalk or clay or the top layer may be deeper. The only way to tell is to dig down to find out for sure.

Another aspect of soil is its pH level, that is the acidity of the earth which will range from acid to alkaline. It is worth getting a pH test kit from a garden centre to find out as this may affect your choice of plants because some plants prefer a more alkaline soil than others.

If the soil quality in the garden is poor, good quality top soil can be brought in and is a quick fix if you have not got time to wait for the soil quality to improve. However, in pots and beds it is better to dig in some superior quality garden compost as this will have the nutrients plants will need to grow well.

Making your own garden compost is easy if you have the space for a compost bin or two. Green kitchen and garden waste should be put into the compost bin along with cardboard or other fibrous materials. The compost should be watered regularly and after about six months or so the contents should have transformed into a dark, crumbly, soil-like substance thanks to the compost worms and bacteria doing their work. This can then be dug into the soil providing it with the additional nutrients it will require to produce high quality flowering and edible plants.

Other soil-improvers that can be utilised in a garden with poor quality soil are manure, which must be well rotted, mushroom compost and even spent hops from the brewing process. If you do have to buy in compost make sure that is of superior quality as this will hopefully give the positive results that are sought.