Now that fall is right around the corner, one of the best things you can do to get your garden ready for our best planting season is to prep your beds. Texas soils can bring many challenges to the garden; not to mention soil in an urban environment can also contain toxins. Heavy clay soils create drainage problems galore and regular use of leaf blowers results in even more compaction and loss of topsoil. Ideally, we want our soil to have the composition of a sandy loam with a pH of around 6.5. But most of us don’t have that in our landscape. Or soils are typically heavier clay gumbo with a higher pH. The best way to begin improving soil in your landscape beds is to amend it with organic matter.
What do I use?
Organic compost is one of the best remedies for poor soil; be the problem too much sand or too much heavy clay. Adding organic matter loosens the soil and improves drainage, aerates the soil and stimulates microbial activity. For existing beds, you can begin by working 3- to 4-inches of organic compost into the top 6-inches of your soil. You can do this with a garden fork or cultivator so that you’re not damaging the root systems of existing plants. Humus is a nutrient dense form of plant compost that can also be added in smaller quantities to your soil.
It’s very important to fertilize your landscape in fall, so be sure to also add in an application of organic fertilizer such as MicroLife™ 6-2-4 in September or early October. Remember that organic fertilizers feed your plants by feeding your soil. Organic forms of nutrients are broken down by beneficial soil microbes, making them available to your plants. Healthy soil makes for healthy plants. Topping your landscape beds with 2- to 3-inches of quality mulch will help conserve moisture and add organic matter over time. Vita Mulch is an excellent eco-friendly choice that also contains some humus and minerals.
How often to I amend?
It’s a good idea to add some organic matter back into the landscape each season. But at a minimum, you should do so once per year. Organic matter is completely broken down in an average of 18-months (faster under warmer conditions) and so it must be replaced in order to keep your soil healthy and bioactive.
Should I amend my raised beds?
Absolutely! In fact, because you probably have more organic matter in your raised beds, you might find that you need to replenish it at least twice per year. Again, simply add in several inches of organic compost to the beds and work in with a garden fork or cultivator. We also carry Raised Bed and Square Foot Garden Soil that pre-mixed and ready to use.
Consider adding other amendments to your beds at this time such as worm castings, greensand and lavasand. In small doses, these amendments can stimulate microbial activity, add micro-nutrients and help maintain soil moisture. And again, don’t forget to work in an organic fertilizer as you’re amending your soil.
Be sure to check out what we have coming into the garden center This Week and also our Events Calendar! We have a great Composting 101 Seminar coming up on September 7th at 10am that you won’t want to miss!