Healthy soil is the key to happy plants

Whether you’re about to create your first garden from scratch, or beginning to prep existing beds for the coming growing season, take the time to check your soil and make it the nutrient-rich home your flowers, vegetables or shrubs definitely deserve.

No matter the season, garden size, or level of gardening expertise, you really want to maintain a thriving garden. And there are only a few easy steps to create a good foundation to ensure your plants thrive.

Having healthy soil helps support the plants roots, creating a habitat for earthworms, microbes and other equally beneficial organisms.

Topsoil is important, and having earthworms helps improve drainage and aeration as they tunnel, while their castings add nutrients.

All soils contain mineral particles formed by the natural breakdown of rock (as well as varying amounts of organic matter, air, and water). The size and shape of these particles determines the soil’s texture, whether clay, sandy, or dirt.

  1. Compost is needed to help your garden thrive. You can either purchase it from your local garden centre, or make your own. All you would need is grass clippings, chopped leaves, and other garden trimmings. It’s easy to produce, it’s good for your garden, and it lightens the load at landfills.
  2. Don’t use fresh manure as it contains plant nutrients and high concentrations of soluble salts, which can harm plant roots. Composted cow manure contains a good balance of nutrients, is widely available in bags at your local garden centre, and does not smell bad.
  3. Ground bark is useful in clay soils as it helps separate fine clay particles. But it can take nitrogen from the soil as it decomposes, so add nitrogen along with it for best plant growth. Some wood products, such as soil conditioner, can be purchased already fortified with nitrogen; check the labels to be sure. Never use fresh wood chips.

When adding to your soil be sure to do the following:

  1. Dampen the soil thoroughly, and allow it to dry for a few days before you dig. Don’t try to work soil that’s too wet or too dry.
  2. Break up dirt clods and remove any stones or debris as you go. In small areas, use a spading fork
  3. Add fertilizer. Spread it over the soil and work it into the topsoil where it will have the greatest benefit.
  4. Mix with a spading fork, incorporating evenly into the soil.
  5. Level the bed with a rake, breaking up any remaining clods of earth.
  6. Water well; let the improved soil settle for at least a few days before planting.

Finally, be sure to have some valuable gardening tools at your disposal, being that of:

  • Round-point shovel: Loosens soil, transfers soil to a pile or wheelbarrow, and digs planting holes.
  • Garden spade: Prepares soil for planting and digs narrow, straight-sided trenches.
  • Spading fork: Great for loosening and turning soil, working with manure, and turning compost.
  • Soil rake: Breaks up clods of dirt, levels the soil, tamps seedbeds to make them firm, and works amendments into the top few inches of a planting bed.

With your soil in tiptop shape, you’re ready to start adding your plants. Happy planting!

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