Q: How can I create healthy, good quality soil for my flowerbeds?

A: Healthy soil provides the water, air and nutrients needed to grow healthy plants. All soils can be improved with the addition of certain materials, a process that is often referred to as “amending” the soil.

creating healthy soil for plants and gardensA soil amendment is different than a fertilizer as it changes the structure of the soil and possibly its pH, but may or may not add to its nutrient content. Fertilizers add to nutrient content. Soil structure is an important part of healthy soil as it influences water flow, nutrient uptake and air flow all of which are necessary for healthy root growth.

Examples of soil amendments are limestone which is used to raise soil pH to the range desired for specific plants and gypsum which is used to break up hard clay soils. Some amendments such as compost and kelp change both the soil structure and add nutrients. Compost is an ideal natural amendment as it provides organic matter and improves soil structure in tight clay soils and in loose sands.

To create healthy, good quality soil for your flowerbeds:

1) Regularly add organic matter. It is beneficial for soil health to add compost to your garden beds at the time of planting and then every year thereafter. Compost is an excellent fertilizer. Compost has been shown to help suppress plant diseases and may even provide the plant with improved resistance to various bacteria and fungi.

2) Avoid excessive tilling. Tilling the soil is a popular gardening technique for managing weeds and turning over the soil.

You should avoid tilling deeper than the soil’s top two or three centimetres as this will bring weed seeds closer to the soils surface and encourage their germination. Too much tilling can also cause accelerated decomposition of organic matter because of the constant addition of oxygen. It can be injurious to the young roots of new plants and can disrupt the normal allocation of soil life.

A more effective technique for weed control in the flowerbeds is mulching the bare earth to prevent weed seeds from germinating.

3) Use mulch to prevent erosion and to provide a habitat for beneficial organisms. Mulch is any covering applied to the soil that prevents light from reaching weed seeds. There are a variety of organic and inert mulches available. Organic mulches vary in their speed of decomposition, ability to retain heat and moderate temperatures.

Inert mulches such as river wash and pea-stones are particularly suitable in locations where permanent weed control is required and where little planting is planned. Your selection of mulch will depend upon the purpose the mulch will serve.

Mulching is highly recommended as it helps the plants to retain moisture, reduces soil erosion, suppresses weed growth and insulates the soil providing a good thermal layer of protection during winter freeze and thaw cycles and moderating summer heat.

4) Use a variety of plants to encourage diversity in soil microorganisms. Diversity means that you will be creating a welcoming environment for a wide variety of beneficial insects and micro-organisms. All these living things contribute to the vibrancy and health of your garden.

Harmony Gardens Landscaping can provide small loads delivered of composts, soils, mulches, and river wash stones. We can assist you in flower bed designs and installations.