Improving the Topsoil in Your Garden

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Improving the Topsoil in Your Garden

Category : Garden


When you start gardening a new patch of soil, whether it be a new allotment or a new garden, it’s always interesting. What will grow well or not? Will the soil be easy to work? Well, you can give yourself a head start by doing a bit of soil analysis and improvement before you plant.

Soil structure

First of all, you need to know what sort of soil you’ve got: clay, sandy, loam or chalky, and also how deep the topsoil goes.

Clay soil has very small particles, so tends to get waterlogged, and is often known as heavy soil. However, it retains nutrients, so is usually very fertile. When you roll it in your fingers, it will stick to you, and make a sausage shape. Sandy soil has very large particles, so tends to dry out and does not retain nutrients, but is very light to work. When you roll it between your fingers, you can feel the individual grains.

The ideal soil, loam, is a mixture of clay, sand and silt, giving a soil that is fertile, but easy to work. Chalky soils also contain calcium carbonate. If your soil fizzes when you drop a bit into a jar of vinegar, it contains free calcium carbonate.

You can work out how deep each layer of soil is by digging a hole. As you dig, see where the soil characteristics change. The topsoil northshore, or top layer of soil, is where the plants are going to grow, so you need to know how deep it is, and what type of soil. Below that, you may find a stony or rocky layer.

Soil pH

The pH of the soil, or its acidity, will determine what plants you can grow. You can buy DIY soil testing kits at most garden centres, which will tell you whether your soil is generally acid, alkaline or neutral. However, for new gardens, or an allotment, it may be worth investing in a professional laboratory soil analysis, as this will not only tell soil type and pH, but also tell you how much of various key nutrients are present in your soil.

Improving your soil

Once you know what type and pH of soil you have, you can start to improve it.

In general, the best way to improve soil structure, whether starting from clay or sand, is to add organic matter. This could be home-made compost, well-rotted farmyard manure or bought compost such as mushroom compost. Ideally, you should add organic matter once or twice a year, in autumn and spring.

You can make your soil slightly more acid or alkaline by adding various chemicals. Lime, for instance, will make the soil more alkaline, and iron sulphate will make it more acidic. But in general, if you have very acid or alkaline soil, it’s a good idea to learn to live with it, and grow plants that will thrive in those conditions.

Buy topsoil

If your topsoil is very thin, or not very good quality, it may be best to import more. Topsoil is available to buy in bulk from topsoil suppliers, though do try to inspect before buying, or at the very least ask for a sample, as the quality varies considerably. It should meet British Standards, and be available in three levels of quality: premium, general purpose and economy.

Economy topsoil is really useful for filling large spaces, as it is relatively cheap. However, it is not screened, and may contain weeds or roots. General purpose topsoil is good for most garden uses, including top dressing or laying lawns, and adding soil to beds or containers. Premium topsoil is the best quality, ideal for really good flowerbeds, or for making up your own potting compost. Nurseries often use it for this.

So now you’ve analysed and improved the soil in your new garden or allotment, you’re ready to start digging it over, and planting it up or you can hire excavators sydney for all your landscape design Sydney and construction needs.

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