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Southern Inspirations Garden Design

A family-run business since 1997

Southern Inspirations
Garden Soil Preparation is Fundamental for Landscaping
Proper garden soil preparation makes for happy plants. Garden design is interdependent on your soil analysis. Plants all have different soil requirements. This page contains some of the essential information for soil classification and preparation for successful garden landscaping.

First determine the depth of your topsoil. To do this dig a hole approximately 1 meter deep. Take a physically measurement of the depth of your topsoil. The hole can also reveal if you will experience any drainage problems.

Test the Soil

Perform a few simple soil analysis tests to determine the quality of your soil. The test results will be essential for garden soil preparation. A soil DIY test kit can be used to show you the mineral content, and the pH level of your soil. Take the test sample out of your topsoil.

The pH is used to measure of the degree of alkalinity or acidity of the soil. PH is measured on a logarithmic scale from 1 to 14, 7 being neutral. A reading above 7 indicates your soils alkalinity, while a reading below 7 will indicate acidity. The majority of soils will have a pH of between 5.0 and 7.5.

The types of plants that are growing in your area can give an indication of the soil pH. If acidic loving plants such as philodendrons and azaleas grow, the soil is most probably acidic. The acidity can be corrected during your garden soil preparation by adding lime.

The Soil Classification

The soil can be classified as sand, silt, clay or loam. Take a clean jar and half fill it with the topsoil. Fill it almost to the top with water and give it a vigorous shake. Allow it to settle overnight. Once it has settled, the soils composition should be apparent. Sand will have settled to the bottom first, then silt and lastly the clay on the top. Any organic matter will float on the top of the water.

Sandy soil

Sand will feel gritty when rubber between your fingers. Particles may be seen with the naked eye. There will be little cohesion or binding of particles. Sandy soil is great for drainage. It is however very poor in moisture and nutrient retention.

Silt soil

Silt smooth texture, it feels velvety or soapy when rubbed between your fingers. It is also slightly sticky, and can stain the fingers. Silt soil is great for drainage. It is about average in moisture and nutrient retention. Silt is very susceptible to surface hardening when hot weather follows rain.

Clay soil

Clay sticky and plastic feel to it, and will shine when rubbed between your fingers. It may be shaped and bent without it breaking. It also doesn’t often stain. Drainage is extremely poor when you have clay soil.

Clay soil will retain nutrients well, but is very difficult to cultivate. It takes long time to warm up after cold weather. Clay soil will crack due to shrinkage in dry hot weather.

Loam soil

Loam is composed of different proportions and grades of sand, silt and clay. The soil binds well together. It can feel soapy, gritty or sticky when rubber between the fingers. Loam soil consists of light (sandy), medium (even proportions of all components) or heavy (clay).

A light loam soil will break apart easily. Medium loam soil will break apart under pressure. Heavy loam soil does not break apart at all.

Garden Soil Preparation

The principle chemical elements and their compounds in soil are nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, phosphates, potash and calcium. Nitrogen is great for improving the foliage. It is apt to be deficient in regions where there is heavy rainfall.

Phosphates are good for root development. Potash will help to ripen and harden wood, and promotes the formation of flower buds, and is great for fruit and foliage. Calcium, found in limestone and chalk, will promote the decomposition of vegetable matter.

Correct any deficiency in the mineral content of your soil during your garden soil preparation. Buy the necessary fertilizers, preferably organic, from the local nursery or gardening supplier. The manufacturer normally gives recommendations to the quantities to be added to your soil, on the packaging.

Use loads of compost. Compost is definitely the best fertilizer for garden soil preparation and maintenance. To top it off, compost is organic!

When doing the garden soil preparation, where plants need to grow, double dig the soil. Do the following:
  1. Dig the soil to double its depth.
  2. Although both layers will be turned over, they do not get mixed up.
  3. Draw a line and dig out a trench 600mm wide and one spade deep.
  4. Take out all the soil from this trench to the other side of the plot.
  5. Next fork over the bottom of your trench, turning each forkful in the same spot.
  6. Compost should be added at this stage.
  7. Move your line back 600mm to mark the next trench.
  8. Dig over this soil from this trench into the previous trench.
  9. Repeat the actions 5 to 8 until the whole plot has been dug over.
  10. Finally use the soil from the original trench to fill up the last trench.
Finally remove all the roots and stones that where unearthed during your garden soil preparation. You will now be ready for your Garden landscaping!

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