Tim's Weekly Column
January 30, 2020
Last week, I had talked to you about plant requirements concerning sun, shade and partial sun, or partial shade. If you pick the right plant for the light exposure in your yard, you are well on your way to having happy plants in your yard. However, the type of light a plant needs is not the only thing that can make or break a plant surviving in your yard. In many cases, it’s all about the soil.
For many years, I would have customers ask me why their lawn was not doing very well. One of the first questions I would ask them concerned what was the quality of the loam that was in their yard and how many inches of loam was in place. For a low maintenance lawn, you need at least 6 inches of good quality loam. With less loam of a good quality, trying to grow a lawn is an uphill battle.
No matter what type of plant you are trying to grow, it will do best in a particular type of soil. Let’s say that you are looking to put in a few perennials this spring. Once you get to your local garden center, you will look at a few plants and read a few tags that come with the plant. The tag may say that the plant needs well-drained soil. The tag may say that the plant needs evenly moist soil. The tag may say that the plant needs a soil that has a lot of organic matter. All of these descriptions refer to the type of soil you need to have to achieve the results of plants that thrive. Let me explain a little more about the importance of soil types.
Let’s say that you would like to grow some succulents in your perennial beds. If you look at the tag, it will tell you that the plants require a well-drained soil. What this means is that these are a type of plant that doesn’t like to be in a soil that stays wet all the time. You may find that your soil has a lot of organic matter that holds a lot of water. You may also find that your soil has a lot of clay in the soil.
The clay type of soil can prevent good drainage and your succulent plants will sit in wet soil for part of the year. Over time, if you have succulents in “wet” soil, the plants will eventually die away. On the other hand, if the soil is composed of a lot of sand, the succulents, depending on the variety, will be very happy in the “well drained” soil.
It is always best to know what type of soil you have in your yard. Truth be told, you will probably find that different parts of your yard can have different types of soil. Just because the back yard has a lot of loam does not mean that the front yard will have a lot of loam. I have had customers who have told me that there can be differences in the type of soil in areas just a few feet apart.
If you are going to buy plants for a particular area in your yard, it would be a good idea to dig exploratory holes to see what type of soil you have in those areas. Once you know that you have a soil that drains well or you find that you have a soil that retains moisture, you can then buy plants that will do well in those areas.
Of course, you can add ingredients to the soil to make the soil suitable for your favorite plants. In the lawn and garden trade these things are known as soil amendments. This would include sand, compost, peat moss or even some type of pre-mixed planting soil. It is often easier to match the plant with the soil type that you have in any given part of your yard. As I have always said, you can “fix” the soil to make a plant work in a particular area of your yard. Gardening is supposed to be fun pastime and not some type of drudgework.
When you begin to think about planting in the spring, knowing what type of soil you have in your yard can mean the difference between having plants that will thrive versus plants that will die because they can’t grow in a particular type of soil. A little research on your part in matching plant with the soil you have can make for a better gardening experience.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.