The Ideal Soil
So just what is the ideal soil? For most of the plants we sell at Great Garden Plants, you want a well-drained, loamy, nutrient rich soil with 5 percent organic matter and a pH between 6.0 and 7.2.
Now that we know what the ideal soil is, how do you get it? Soil preparation is the answer. Keep in mind that perennials, trees, shrubs and vines are permanent residents in your landscape so preparing the planting area is the best investment you can make to get your plants off to a good start.
For best results, plants must have good drainage, adequate nutrients and available water at all times. If you are creating a new garden bed, begin by removing grass and weeds. Start by "peeling away" about two inches of the surface and "skimming" the grass off with a spade.
Spread 2-3 inches of organic matter such as peat moss, compost or aged manure (up to 4 inches if the soil is very poor) over the planting area and thoroughly dig in or till to a minimum depth of 6-8 inches. This will improve drainage in heavy clay soil and will help sandy soil hold moisture longer. Break up clods of dirt and remove rocks. Rake the soil level and remove any large clumps.
If your soil test indicates your pH is too high or too low, add lime or sulphur to correct it. A pH below 6.0 means your soil is acidic and may need to be adjusted with dolomitic limestone. If the pH is above 7.2 your soil is alkaline and can be adjusted with iron sulfate. Refer to your soil test for recommendations on additional plant nutrients.
In established gardens remember to add organic matter every time you add a new plant. It's also a good policy to add a 2 or 3 inch layer of organic matter on top of the soil in the fall. As the organic matter breaks down, it will improve soil structure and feed plants.