2011-06-03 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

Preparing Your Soil For The Best Planting Conditions
Commentary By Danielle, Danielle’s Rockaway Florist

The planting season has snuck up on us once again as we enjoy warmer weather and steady temperatures. I am sure we are all looking forward to adding some color to the landscape to brighten up the surroundings since we will be spending a lot more time enjoying the outdoors.

Your soil is one of the most important factors in successful landscaping and gardening so you need to know what makes up your soil to prevent problems. Some gardens consist of loam, which is considered the ideal planting soil because it has an even amount of large and small particles. This helps to retain and drain the proper amounts of nutrients and water.

Clay has tiny particles that bind together and prevent drainage and sandy soils lose moisture and nutrients fairly quickly. There’s a simple test that you can do at home to see how to condition your soil for the best results in your garden. When your soil is wet, shape a small amount into a ball. Loam will form a clump when you squeeze it, and crumble easily. Hard clay forms a ball that won’t break up, and sandy soil won’t hold together at all.

Many of us find gardening difficult because the sandy beaches that we crave all winter lend the same elements to our soil and make it hard for our “investments” to grow. This limits the number of plants that can thrive in our gardens. Rockaway gardeners must learn which plants live well in sandy soil or learn to better our soil for planting.

Sandy soil allows iron, humus and clay to be washed down over time by rain and water. The material hardens and creates a waterproof layer from the deposits called a pan. This barrier is about 12 to 15 inches underground and should be broken down to allow proper drainage, and room for the roots to grow.

Sandy soil with fine granules has the ability to hold water in greater measures than those with coarse particles. Large granules create the inability to hold nutrients such as potash and nitrogen, which promote strong leaf, root and stem growth and encourage flower development. To increase the moisture holding capacity of soil, you should add some topsoil and organic material such as peat moss. Sandy soil can only be dramatically improved by adding large amounts of organic material year after year because the aerated conditions lead the organic matter to break down rapidly. Miracle Grow gardening soil contains organic material that should be mixed with the soil that you already have in your beds. They all have enough fertilizer for three months which will help grow strong plants and big blooms as well as hold moisture. This is recommended for small to medium sized flowerbeds. It can become quite costly to complete an entire yard.

Preparing your soil can become an investment of your money, and more of your time. Adding long-term amendments to your soil will have long-term benefits. The first few years you may not see much of a difference, but over time, the soil should become darker, easier to work with, and require less watering.

A garden should get regular doses of fertilizer. Organic fertilizers are longer lasting than chemical fertilizers, and you can use smaller amounts in the years to come. Chemical fertilizers are less expensive, and work faster, but can actually harm your garden if applied incorrectly or in excess. It is best to have a professional fertilize your lawn so that they can calculate the correct measure of nutrients to supplement the deficiencies in your soil.

After trial and error of planting some of your favorite shrubs and flowering plants, you may unexpectedly find some that adapt and thrive in these conditions. The best way to ensure successful planting on sandy soil is to choose plants that naturally grow in these conditions.

Feel free to visit us or write with your gardening questions at Danielle’s Rockaway Florist, 436 Beach 129 Street, Rockaway Park 11694.

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