53January 4, 2018

My guess is that you probably aren’t going to be planting anything outside for the next few weeks. With that being said, it is time to start thinking about the things you can do in the spring that will make you a more successful gardener.

Every spring and summer, I spend a lot of time talking to gardeners about why they are having trouble getting plants to grow in their yard. I usually ask a series of questions to eliminate things like lack of water, lack of fertilizer, lack of sun etc. If I can eliminate many things that can go wrong then there is usually the phrase, “ It’s the soil.”

Many times gardeners don’t give a lot of thought to the importance of the correct amount of high quality soil. For example, if you have trouble growing a lawn and you have used good quality seed, have properly watered and fertilized the lawn and yet come the summer, the grass dies out, then it is the soil that isn’t allowing you to have a good lawn.

In order to have a good lawn that will come back year after year, you need to have at least 6 inches of good quality loam. Many times, I will ask people to bring in a sample of the soil that makes up their lawn. So often there is two inches of loam and the rest of the soil is comprised of poor quality fill or sand or clay. If this is what you have for the soil in your yard, you are not going to be able to grow a lawn. You can have the $10,000 irrigation system, you can use sod, you can hydro seed to try to grow a lawn. It isn’t going to work until you remove and replace the top 6 inches of soil with good quality soil or amend the top 6 inches of soil with compost or good quality loam. If you don’t do this part of soil preparation, you will re-seed each spring and have your lawn die off each summer.

The same thing hold true for growing your vegetable plants in raised beds or in containers. If the soil you use isn’t top quality, the soil will dry out easily. The soil won’t hold water or nutrients. Just because the bag says garden soil or potting soil doesn’t mean that it is good quality soil. Just like with your lawn, you need to have sufficient quantity of soil to grow your plants. You are not going to be able to successfully grow a tomato plant in a 10-inch pot. Tomato plants have a huge root system and they get to be big. Look at the planting instructions on the plant tag that comes with the tomato plant. It will tell you to plant the tomato plants 3 feet apart in rows 3 feet apart. What the directions are telling you is that tomato plants need room to grow and they need a lot of soil for their roots to grow. If you have too small of a container to grow your tomato plant or if you only have 3 inches of good quality in your raised beds, your tomato plant isn’t going to grow properly.

Remember, it is all about the quality of the soil and the proper amount of soil that will determine how well your plants will grow.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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