In the past, without really understanding what my soil needed for my plants to thrive, I would spread a few bags of top soil on my gardens in spring and call it a day. But I’ve been reading about pH levels and the importance of composting and mulch that I don't know where to begin. So I turned to Anne Marie to seek advice on how a budding gardener should prepare her soil.
Here is Anne Marie's advice:
- For most plants, pH is less of a concern than the type of soil present. Most plants are fine with soil that is slightly alkaline all the way to slightly acidic. It is only when soils are very acidic or very alkaline that some plants will struggle if they're growing in a type of soil that is not suited for them.
- For example, acid-soil loving rhododendrons growing in very alkaline (limestone based) soils. Most plants are tolerant of a relatively wide range of soil pH values.
- Test your soil for its pH level if you are curious. Horticultural lime or garden sulphur are the most often recommended products applied to alter the soil acidity level.
- PH aside, compost is excellent to add to the soil. Make sure it is from a reliable source.
- Three to five centimetres of compost added each spring is a great soil enrichment program.
- Then place a layer mulch on top of the compost.
- An undyed organic mulch is great if only a small layer of compost can be added or if compost is only added every other year. The organic mulch (shredded pine bark, pine needles, cedar mulch, etc.) will break down over time and become part of the soil. Therefore it should be topped up every year.
- My advice is to leave the existing soil alone and work on adding compost to it each year, with the addition of a mulch topping. This is a much easier task to build a “raised bed” than dealing with clay, for example, and fighting the battle to change the soil composition.
So with this helpful advice, my next step is to apply a layer of compost to my beds.