Soil is one of the essential building blocks to growing strong and healthy plants. Whether you’re working in your backyard garden or filling containers, the right soil can make all the difference to achieving green success. Soil anchors a plant’s roots, facilitates their water supply, helps them breathe and offer the nutrients needed to support growth. Different plants need different types of support from their soil, so its important to determine what you’ll be planting before you pick out the corresponding soil.
This guide will help you test the properties in the soil you already have in your yard and determine what amendments you should add to help your plants thrive.
Tip: If you’re planting directly into the ground, you can use amendments to improve your native, in-ground soil. When planting in containers, use potting mix specifically formulated to provide adequate drainage and space for roots to grow.
Your soil’s pH level reflects its acidity. pH is measured on a scale from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). Plants tend to grow best in soil with a pH between 6 and 7, but certain edibles and grass species prefer more extreme levels.
Before shopping for soil amendments, do a quick soil test of your native soil using a simple pH test kit. This will help you determine if you should increase the pH with lime or reduce it with sulfur.
There are three components of soil - sand, clay and silt. Most soil is a combination of these three. Depending on your region, your soil may be sandier or have more clay. Perform a “Feel Test” to give you an idea of what kind of soil do you have.
Moisten a tablespoon of soil and roll it into a small ball. If the ball packs together and is moldable, your soil contains clay. If you can form a two to three-inch ribbon with your ball of soil, you have very high clay content. If the ribbon falls apart, or feels gritty, you have a mix of clay and sand. If the soil ball will not hold together regardless of how much water you add, and it feels a little gritty, it’s a sandy soil.
Good soil is formulated to address specific planting needs. Soils can be premixed and ready to use, specially formulated for use with certain plants, or you can find individual amendments to add to your native, in-ground soil to improve the composition.
Different plants thrive with different types of soil. Carefully read the amendment and potting mix labels to ensure you’ve made the right choice for your plants. And remember, it’s important to keep them properly watered and fed. Feed your plants one month after planting.
Trees & Shrubs
Every flowering plant has its own specific needs, but there are some general guidelines you can follow.
Fruits & Vegetables
Many soils contain added nutrients to help plants get a quick boost or to keep them fed continuously during the growing season.
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are some of the most common nutrients used in this way.
When choosing your soil, look at a product’s label to see how long they will keep a plant fed. Some soils feed for up to three months while others are formulated with nutrients that keep a plant fed for up to nine months!