Preparing Your Garden Soil for Planting

A healthy garden soil is essential for healthy plants. If your soil is rich and nutritious there will be little need for fertilisers, and even pesticides.

We have all heard that compost is beneficial for our gardens, although most of us don’t know just how truly remarkable it is. Compost is decomposed organic matter, such as leaves, twigs and grass clippings. When you mix all these items together in a compost heap, they break down into organic matter that can nourish your garden. Good organic garden soil is loose and fluffy and retains air, nutrients and moisture well. If your soil is heavily clayed or over sandy, work compost into your beds to improve the soil structure and neutralise the pH. This will also increase the variety of beneficial soil organisms in the soil such as earthworms.

Topsoil is the upper-most layer of soil and is usually between 5-15cm deep. If your topsoil is high quality, it will be dark in colour and rich in organic matter.  Some topsoils are very poor quality and lack nutrients. Should this be the case in your garden you will need to purchase a good quality topsoil, either in bulk or bags and work it into your beds together with the compost.  You are also able to buy premixed topsoil and compost from your local GCA Garden Centre. In addition, topsoil is extremely useful for building berms, raising beds and fixing poorly levelled lawns, as it does not break down the way compost does.

Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity in soils. The correct soil pH is vital for plant growth as it influences the availability of essential nutrients and affects the activity of soil microorganisms (the bacteria that decomposes organic matter will decline in acidic soil). When planting your new garden, it is beneficial to check the soil pH to see whether it is suitable or needs to be adjusted.