53February 23, 2017
How did your garden grow this past year? Aside from the dry weather, did your perennials, annuals, vegetables give you the results that you had hoped for? If you kept up with watering and fertilizing the plants and yet you didn’t get all the flowers or all the yield of vegetables that you expected, what else could be wrong? For many years I have said, when you rule out all the other problems, it is probably the soil. If you dig up a spot in the yard and put in a few plants, the plants may or may not grow as you expect the plants to grow. This can be particularly frustrating if you know that friends or neighbors can grow those plants in their yard. If you planted your plants in the correct light requirements, kept up with the watering and kept up with the fertilizing the issue is most likely that the quality of the soil is not of the proper consistency to grow those plants. What you may need to do this spring is to “fix “ the soil.
If you do any reading on the topic of gardening, you may have run across the term soil amendments. In the simplest of terms, this is what you add to the soil to create a better quality soil. What you add to the soil to improve the soil may not be what you think you need to add to the soil. If your soil holds too much water, you may need to add sand to the soil to improve the drainage of excess water. For the most part, soil amendments would be compost, garden soil, topsoil, peat moss or a combination of all of the things listed. Before you add anything to the soil, you need to figure out what is wrong with the soil.
You may have a bit of a clue about what is wrong with your soil when you first started to dig up the soil. If you have a hard time putting a shovel into the soil because of all the rocks or because the soil just seems so packed together you probably asked yourself if anything was going to grow in that soil. You may have added some topsoil or compost on top of the soil and put your plants into the ground. You probably found out that it didn’t allow anything to grow properly. The problem that you run into is that it isn’t just that top half-inch of soil that needs to be repaired, it is the top 6 inches or more that needs to be repaired. Once the ground thaws this spring, this is what I want you to do.
Get a shovel and push it into the ground to the full depth of the shovel blade. Most shovel blades are about 6 inches long. You are going to pop out a 6-inch deep plug of soil and lay it on top of the ground. Next you will take some of that soil near the top of the plug and put the soil into the palm of your hand. Take your fingers and rub them through that soil. Does the soil feel like beach sand? Does the soil feel slippery? Next go farther down the length of the plug and see how the soil feels at 4 inches from the top. Once you have done this, you will have an idea of the consistency of the soil. If you are still not sure of what is wrong, there are a couple of things you can do. You can send soil samples off to the co-operative extension service in your state. They will analyze the soil and tell you what you need to do to make the soil “better”. You can also bring that plug of soil into our store and we can check the quality of the soil and tell you what is wrong with the soil. Once you know what is wrong with the soil, then you will be able to take the proper steps to make the soil better. More on that in next week’s column.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.