Garden Soil Information

Facts About Soil Types, pH and Amendments

Starting a new garden? Since the earth in which you're planting will be the foundation for your project, you'll want to bone up on your garden soil information. Consult the resources below for facts dealing with structure (type), pH and amendments.

  • 01 of 04

    Soil Types

    Tricolor sage (image) is an ornamental. It likes fast-draining soil.
    David Beaulieu

    Is the ground where you're starting a new garden clayey? If so, the poor drainage conditions characteristic of clay may spell disaster for your new plants. For example, many herbs such as the Tricolor sage in the picture (and, generally, plants we associate with the Mediterranean) perform badly where drainage is poor. The situation can be corrected, but many beginning gardeners, lacking the necessary soil information, are not even aware of the problem.

    Do not let clay get in the way of your plans to model a dream garden! This article provides a brief introduction to inform you of what is going on down there. If you find that the earth has too much clay in it, use amendments (see below) to improve your drainage.

  • 02 of 04

    Soil pH

    'Golden Oriole' azalea lives up to its bright-sounding name. This azalea is yellow and orange.
    David Beaulieu

    It is even more critical for beginning gardeners to access soil information regarding pH, that is, how acidic or alkaline the ground is. That is because soil pH is invisible (only a test will reveal this tidbit of soil information). You could easily play around in the dirt your whole life and never realize that such a thing exists!

    But invisible or not, pH has a lot to say about whether or not your new garden will prosper. Some of the shrubs, perennials, etc. that you will want to grow are acid-loving plants, but others hate acid. Find out why in this resource.

  • 03 of 04

    Soil Amendments

    Tumbler compost bins (image) are cleaner than other types. This makes them good against rats.
    David Beaulieu

    The soil information we have offered so far may leave you with a sense of foreboding. It may seem that there is nothing but trouble lurking below the ground surface, just waiting to impede the growth of plants in your new garden. But here is the good news: You can use soil amendments to correct your problem whether that problem is too much clay or the wrong pH.

    And there is more good news: some soil amendments can be free, requiring no trip to your local home improvement store or garden center. Why not make your own compost? While some homeowners will want the kind of fancy compost bin pictured here, it is not really necessary.

    If you are looking to save money, you can use scrap lumber that you have lying around. Simply sink four poles into the ground to function as your vertical supports and attach boards to them to form a three-walled box that is approximately 4 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet. Do not make the walls solid: leave spaces between the boards, so that the compost pile will be better ventilated. Why three walls? You leave one side open to retain access to the compost​ so that you can turn it.

    But how are "amendments" defined? Find out in the resource linked to here.

  • 04 of 04

    Leaf Mulch

    Fall leaves (image) are colorful but I don't like raking them. It's necessary, though.
    David Beaulieu

    Sold on the idea of using amendments? Then it is time to learn (if you have not already) how to make optimal use of a source of organic matter that nature often supplies in droves: the leaves that fall from the trees in autumn. You know, those pesky leaves that you have to rake on crisp October days when you would much rather be out hiking in the woods? If you learn how to turn them into free amendments, you may begin to view those leaves as "prized" rather than "pesky."