Before you go rushing out to your local garden center and buy whatever you like the look of, make sure that you understand the what type of soil you have in your garden. This can have a huge effect on whether you have a beautiful garden full of lush and healthy plants or whether you end up with plants that die or look miserable.
If you have a garden with acid soil then converting it to a lime soil is very easy by simply adding lime. However if you have a lime soil and wish to turn it into an acid soil then this is pretty much impossible due to the fact that there is probably chalk or limestone rocks underneath.
If you are unsure of what type of soil you have, then simply purchase a soil-testing kit. There are other ways of finding out just by looking to see what sort of plants are thriving in your garden and the gardens of your neighbours. For instance, azaleas and camellias love acid.
Many people believe that in order to have a beautiful garden you need to have an acid soil. This needn’t be the case. You just need to choose your plants wisely. Here are some suggestions for plants and trees – birch, hawthorn, buddleia, lilac, magnolia, roses, clematis, bamboo and honesty.
I have alkaline soil but I want to grow acid-loving plants. What can I do?
If there are certain plants which love acid soil but you have alkaline soil then you are going to have more work to do to get around this problem. By building a raised bed you can then fill it with the correct type of soil and compost. You will also need to line the raised bed with a membrane to stop long roots reaching down to the chalk subsoil, making sure, however, that there are drainage holes. Another option is to grow plants in pots, the art of growing trees in pots is called Bonsai.
There are a number of benefits of having clay soil including the fact that it is able to hold nutrients and holds water for longer. However having a garden with clay soil is not without it’s problems. When the weather is very wet this can make the soil very difficult to work as it becomes rather sticky. Plus, during a hot summer the soil can look like a clay pot which has just come out of a kiln. When working with clay soil you can either find ways of improving the soil or you can just accept it the way it is and select plants which are clay-tolerant.
Improving Clay Soil
- Dig drainage ditches if suitable.
- Build raised beds.
- Add organic matter – contents of a compost heap is great.
- DO NOT dig in sand otherwise you’ll end up with concrete.
- If you live near the sea then seaweed is very beneficial.
- Crab apple
If you have sandy soil in your garden then consider yourself very lucky as the majority of plants will be happy in sandy soil plus it is also very easy to dig. The only problem is that it drains very quickly which means you will need to water it more often and fertilizers wash through very quickly. Improving sandy soils for gardens is easy, just add organic matter such as compost and manure plus mulch on the surface.