A basic understanding of your soil is the first step in growing a garden with lasting beauty. Since the soil is the foundation upon which all plants grow, if you know what you have and what you might need to add to it, you’ll give your garden a great start and have less trouble maintaining it too. This kind of knowledge doesn’t require a degree in chemistry, just a few tips and observations will usually do the trick.

What Kind of Soil do I Have?

In basic terms, there are three types of soil – sand, silt and clay. Your soil is probably comprised of more than one of these elements. Most home improvement stores sell basic soil tests that you can use in your yard to determine what your soils is made up of. It’s a good idea to test a few different places in your yard since you could have pockets of materials depending on climate, geography and even what kind of fill was brought in when your home was built.

Basics About Drainage

When you are choosing plants in the nursery to place in your yard, take a look at the tags on them. One piece of information you are likely to find is the plants drought tolerance or drainage needs. Some plants are labeled as “requires good drainage” while others fair well in soil that is very dry or very moist. Knowing which you’ve got will help you to better select plants that are likely to thrive.

It’s pretty easy to check where your soil stands on the spectrum from “dry as a desert” to “completely water logged” by simply digging a hole about 12-inches deep, filling it completely with water and timing how long it takes to drain. You can also use a small measuring tape to measure how many inches drain per hour. If you are draining about 2-inches of water per hour, consider your soil as having an ideal infiltration rate. A rate of 1-inch per hour or less usually means your soil drains slowly, and you’ll need to stick with plants that tolerate that well.

pH Levels

Another thing that will impact which plants grow well in your yard is the pH level of your soil. This ranges from 0 to 14 with a reading of 6.5 to 7 being considered neutral. Lower numbers are indicative of acidic soil, and higher numbers usually mean your soil is alkaline. You can check your levels with a simple pH test, purchased at a hardware or gardening store. Much like the test for soil type, it’s a good idea to check levels in more than one part of your yard.

Whatever the condition of your soil, there are all kinds of products available to help “improve” or “change” it. A key factor to remember though is that your garden will never be as easy to maintain if you’re using these products on a regular basis as it will be if you simply choose plants that thrive in the soil you already have.

Even if you choose the right plants, soil amendments that improve the ecology in your yard and keep your soil healthy are often a great investment. These include decomposed manure, leaf and grass clippings, compost and worm castings.

A great outdoor living space and impressive curb appeal both begin with a beautiful yard. Knowing a bit about your soil can help you to choose the right plants and maintain them more easily to create a gorgeous landscape.

If you are designing the outdoor space in your home and need professional assistance, the general contractors at Alair Homes Oakville are always ready to assist.