As a gardening enthusiast, you know successful gardening is something you cannot do without good soil. Soil provides nutrients, water, microbes, protection, and anchorage for everything we plant. Building a garden is not rocket science. Many people start off by simply plowing the soil, placing in some plants, and adding a bit of compost or mulch. While this is the simplest method to give your garden a facelift, the long-term success of your garden depends on how healthy your soil is. The healthier your soil, the better your garden.
Since spring is here, like many Calgary residents, you might be preparing for gardening. Before you get down to sowing seeds or plants, be sure to first prepare your soil. Remember that in Calgary, the ground has high clay content and lacks essential nutrients. Clay restricts water and air passage to the plants and seeds. On top of that, it takes more time to warm up in spring and is difficult to till. So, with all these downsides, is it even possible to build a beautiful garden in Calgary? Of course, it is!
Preparing your soil in the first place is the key to building a productive garden. Here’s your guide to make sure you have the best soil in Calgary to build your garden.
The first thing you must do before making any changes to your garden is to get your soil tested. A soil test will show what’s already there and diagnose any problems.
First, the soil test will determine the amount of the essential minerals, such as phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, and other elements present in your soil. Remember that these minerals are the lifeline for plants, flowers, and grass. The test will diagnose whether your soil is deficient or rich in these minerals.
Soil pH Level
Second, the test will determine your soil’s existing pH level. pH level determines how well your plants will absorb nutrients. No matter how fertile your soil, a pH level below or over 6.5 – 6.8 means the plants won’t be able to absorb the nutrients. A pH level below 6.0 indicates acidic soil, whereas pH above 7.0 means your soil is alkaline.
When and How to Do Soil Testing
It’s a good idea to perform a soil test in the spring or fall because the soil is stable in these seasons. You can do the test yourself with an inexpensive soil test kit that you can easily find at a landscape supply store. Alternatively, you could ask your local soil testing service to do it for you.
Soil Texture and Type
The amounts of clay, silt, and sand present in the soil typically shape its texture and type. Having the suitable soil texture and type is essential to grow healthy plants.
High Sand Content
Soil with high sand content is not suitable for your plants’ health because nutrients and water get a quick passage through the open spaces between the sand particles. This type of soil also lacks natural matters and microbes essential for a productive garden.
While silty soil is more fertile than sandy and clay-laden soil, it is too thick to allow proper water drainage. This means your plants, grass, and flowers are not going to get the required amount of water in silty soil.
High Clay Content
And when it comes to soil with high clay content, it tends to be denser than silty soil. As such, the soil does not allow proper water passage, besides being brittle and cracking upon drying. Clay soil also lacks nutrients, organic matters, and microorganisms that are good for the health of plants. Moreover, the roots of plants hardly grow in clay.
How to Determine Your Soil Texture and Type
The texture and type of soil differ from one region to another. Unfortunately, in Calgary, we have high clay content in our soil. Anyone who knows the visual difference between these three soil contents can easily spot the type of soil in their garden by digging 4-5 inches into the ground and looking at the removed soil. However, it is a good idea to ask your soil profiling service to test your soil to determine its texture and type.
Many experts agree that the ideal soil makeup consists of about:
- 40 percent sand
- 40 percent silt
- 20 percent clay
Once you determine your soil’s nutrients, pH level, and texture, and type, you can carry out soil amendment to make the best of your garden.
Soil amendment is done based on the results of the soil test. It typically involves altering your soil’s texture and type, tweaking the pH level, and adding essential nutrients. The soil texture and type can be altered with the addition of content that is in deficit.
For example, the high clay content in Calgary soil can be altered with the addition of landscape supplies, such as screened loam, garden mix, builder’s sand, or gypsum. These landscaping supplies help make more air pockets in the soil and improve drainage. And adding organic matters, such as compost, can make the soil more fertile.
For Calgary residents, Ornamental Stone recommends its screened loam for a simple soil amendment because it is a basic screened soil, free of added nutrients but great for grass and plants.
On the other hand, if your soil has high clay content and lacks the essential nutrients, consider using our garden party soil amendment. It does not contain soil but is a blend of peat moss and compost. Our garden party can effectively break down clay and provide nutrients to existing gardens.
Balancing Soil pH Level
When it comes to balancing your soil’s pH level, add lime or wood ash to the soil if the pH level is low. And if the pH level is high, you can lower it by adding compost, peat, or sulfur to the soil. Ask a landscape supply store in Calgary for help to achieve the ideal pH level for your garden soil.
If it turns out that your soil lacks the essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium, there are two ways to eliminate the deficit:
- Add the nutrients to the earth in the form of chemical fertilizers
- Add organic matters rich in the nutrients to your garden
Since synthetic fertilizers are not sustainable and can damage the roots of your plants, it is a good idea to go for the second option. Fresh or aged manure, bark, mulch, and compost come packed with the nutrients essential for your plants. Also, they can improve your soil texture and are healthy for earthworms and microbes.
Our woodlands garden mix is a perfect blend of organic matters, such as compost, mulch, and soil. It can reduce your soil’s clay content, provide the essential nutrients, and alter your soil’s pH to a level that is feasible for growing most flowers, vegetables, and plants.
Get Started Now
If you have done soil testing and determined your garden soil texture and type, contact Ornamental Stone for the suitable soil amendment products and other landscape supplies. Alternatively, you can visit your nearest Ornamental Stone landscape supply store to explore our soil solutions. Our soil delivery service is available in north, south, and central Calgary.