When the growing season arrives, we all have high hopes for our gardens. We imagine high yields of veggies and vigorous, healthy plants. But what if this isn’t the case? If your garden is struggling, you might be stuck wondering why and what to do about it.
The answer may be simple: soil. Despite your best efforts with watering, pruning, weeding, and other garden care, you might not get as much out of your garden as you should. The reason often has to do with the quality of soil you have in your garden.
The plants in your garden depend greatly on the nutrients in the soil. Even with the right amount of sun and water, plants can fail if they aren’t planted in the correct soil conditions. This might bring you to wonder what condition your soil is in and what you can do to alter it.
First of all, if you haven’t already, figure out what kind of soil texture you have in your garden. There are multiple soil types, but the ideal one for growing most things is loam. There is an easy test you can do yourself to discover which you have. Take a handful of slightly moist soil in your hand and squeeze it. Loamy soil is soft and crumbly in your hands but will loosely hold its shape after you squeeze it. Loam soil contains a good balance of sand, silt, and clay particles and retains nutrients best, helping plants to stay healthy and strong.
If you don’t have this kind of soil, you can add things to your garden soil to improve it. Adding organic matter to your soil–such as compost, peat, or manure–can greatly improve your garden.
Another aspect of the soil you need to look into is the pH. The pH of your garden soil refers to how alkaline or acidic it is, and is measured on a scale between 0 (acidic) and 14 (alkaline), with 7 being neutral. Generally, most garden plants like a pH between 6 – 7.5. To find out the acidity of your soil, you will need to test it. You can do this with a purchased kit, or you can have it tested elsewhere like your county extension office. Once you have the results, you will have an idea of what you will need to change to improve your soil for the types of plants you will be growing. This may include adding lime to increase the pH, or sulphur to help lower it.
Once you have a better understanding of your soil type and how you can fix it, you will be on your way to a healthier garden.