By Stephen Jay Jackson
Before getting started on planting a few flowers, you will need to take some time and prepare your garden soil. Clay, silt, and sand will all need to be mixed perfectly in order to prepare your soil to provide the best possible environment for your plants. The ideal soil conditions that will promote excellent plant growth will be 20% clay, 40% silt, and 40% sand. There are many different tests that are used by gardeners that will provide the information you need to know about perfect soil composition. The first of many tests that can be used is to simply put the dirt in your hand and compress it. The soil will need to hold its shape because if it doesn't, the sand ratio is probably off. While you still have the compressed dirt in your hand try to poke it, and if it doesn't fall apart chances are the soil has too much clay.
If you're still confused about the type of soil you have, there is another technique that you can use that will separate each ingredient. Dump a couple of cups of dirt into a bucket of water. If you take the bucket and shake it around for a while, you'll see that the dirt will separate. Let it settle for a little while and you will actually see it separate into three different layers. From the bottom to the top you will see, sand, silt, and clay. At this point you'll be able to determine which of the three you have too much of.
After you've checked, and double-check, and you have found that your soil is low on a certain ingredient, it's time to do something about it. Sand or silt is probably the easiest to deal with because if there is too much, you can always add a little bit of Peat Moss. Also, Peat Moss and sand are an excellent combination if you have too much clay. Peat Moss works really well because when it gets moist it allows the other ingredients to combine a lot easier. If you've played around with the soil to the point where you can't get the right mix, head over to your home improvement center or your hardware store and find a product that can help you determine the quality of your soil. There should be several different products available that can help you.
When working with your garden soil, you'll also want to make note of the water content because this is also important. Water poses the biggest problem if your garden is located in the lowest area of your yard, where all the water drains too. If you have a garden in this area, the best thing to do is raise the garden at least 5 to 7 inches above grade. This will prevent saturation and provide a maximum amount of drainage.
Mixing nutrients with your soil is extremely important at this point, and the reason is many different soils found in urban areas do not contain many of the good nutrients your plans will require. So, at least one to two weeks before planning your garden, you should begin to mix in some fertilizer in your soil. Make sure to mix it in extremely well, and then allowed to sit for a few days. After this is done the soil will be prepped and ready for whatever type of seeds you plan to grow.
The job is not done because even after your seeds have been planted, you will still want to pay attention to what's going on with your soil. You will notice that in the first couple of weeks your seedlings will be using up a lot of the different nutrients around them. This will slowly but surely allow them to sprout into unique plants. You don't want them to run out of food so about a week or two after the initial planting, you'll want to make sure you add at least the same amount of fertilizer as you did before planting your seeds. You want to use your fertilizer sporadically, but you don't want to use it all the time. Rule of thumb for adding fertilizer will typically be every couple of weeks, because this will be plenty to keep your garden green and growing.
When preparing your garden soil the process can be done quite simply by making sure that the soil is more than adequate, if you have a problem with the drainage take care of it, and make sure you have plenty of fertilizer but you don't want to add it all the time. If you follow the directions in this article you will have a wealth of plants that will provide greenery, beauty, or food to eat, in no time at all. If you're having a problem with any of these steps you can always talk to your local nursery, and let them know exactly what you've done so they can help. You'll find that many of the people that work at the plant nursery are very knowledgeable, and willing to help you prepare your garden soil so you can begin to grow some plants.
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Malara Gardens has the soil you need!
We proudly carry the Black Gold brand of potting mix and compost. We also have top soil, cow manure, sheep and peat, and peat moss. All of these products are available in different size bags. Although we are not able to offer bulk product from our store, we do contract with Permagreen to have bulk soils and mulches delivered to your site. Please contact us for further information.
We currently stock Western Red Cedar Mulch in gold and red, along with Bark nuggets in medium and large chip. These generally come in 2 or 3 cubic foot bags.
Whether you are an expert gardener or just a beginner, you probably need few more things to get started this spring besides soil and plants. We carry traditional and organic products in our fertilizer and insecticide lines. We also have a nice selection of quality hand and watering tools.