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Soil Preparation

Clay, sand, rocks, or loam. None of us seem to have the perfect soil.

Whether it's clay or sand the solution is the same, organic matter. Adding aged manure, compost, or peat moss to the soil can improve drainage in clay soil and increase water-holding capacity for sandy soils.

Check the soil moisture before you get started to avoid clods, cracks, and dust. Grab a handful of soil and lightly squeeze. If it breaks into smaller pieces when tapped the soil is ready to be worked. Simply add 2 to 4 inches of organic matter to the top 6 to 12 inches of soil where the plant roots grow.

Use a shovel or tiller to mix things up. Once you've mixed in the organic matter, rake the soil smooth. Then give it time to settle.

Now you're ready to plant and grow your way to a beautiful landscape and productive garden.

A bit more information: Keep working on your soil even after the garden is planted. Use organic mulches such as herbicide-free grass clippings, shredded leaves, and evergreen needles. Mulch conserves moisture and reduces weeds. Better for your plants and less work for you. As organic mulches break down they add organic matter to the soil. Earthworms and beetles take the decomposed mulch into the soil to improve the growing conditions down below.

Mulching is a great way to improve the soil in established perennial gardens. Topdressing along with mulching will help improve the soil and keep your perennials looking good. Its simple. Spread one to two inches of compost over the soil surface surrounding the perennials every other year. Topdressing with compost improves the soil and research has shown it provides the nutrients perennials need. That's right - little or no more fertilizer is needed.

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