Soil is the most important gardening essential, it is the key to a healthy garden, it’s a living community made up of invisible micro-organisms, nutrients, water and air, all of which contribute to plant growth. Plants grow by absorbing nutrients from the soils and the soil provides plants with an anchor. Well fed plants produce bigger and longer lasting flowers that bloom abundantly. Attention to your soil is the best way to keep the garden looking its best. To get a good garden you need to have a balance of organic materials mixed in the soil so it can drain quickly without becoming waterlogged. Most soils need to be improved. There are basically 4 soil types in Perth….Sand, Loam, Clay and Gravel.
Sand tends to hold little water but has good aeration. Clay tend to pack tight so that water does not drain well and little or no air can penetrate. A loamy soil is ideal for most gardens as it is a combination. Gravel is found in the hills of Perth and is reddish, hard small particles of rock, hard to dig into. Soil texture affects how well nutrients and water are retained in the soil. As water drains from sandy soils it often carries nutrients along with it, taking goodness away from the plants, this is called leaching.
You can improve your soil easily by adding organic material to it on a regular basis. You can add compost, we sell it by the bag or make it yourself and work it through the soil. There are products which can be added to soil like Peat, Sphagnum moss, Perlite, Vermiculite, Gypsum and Sand to improve the quality of the soil for certain purposes. Peat is made up of the remains of plants that have partly decayed under water in bogs or marshes. Peat moss doesn’t have alot of nutritional value but holds water and fertiliser really well and improves soil structure. Sphagnum moss is a bog moss mainly used in mixes for orchids and as a backing for Elkhorns or Staghorns. Can be used in the base of hanging baskets too as it absorbs and retains moisture, it has almost no nutrient value though. Perlite is volcanic rock that has been ground to a fine, medium or coarse consistancy. The fine grade is useful for seed raising mixes, it helps give an open texture to the potting mix and absorbs water and minerals. It does not decompose and lasts for years, holds moisture without becoming boggy and is free of disease, weeds and insects. Vermiculite is a mineral when expanded under heat, then forms flakes, that can absorb and retain exceptionally large amounts of water and nutrients. Vermiculite is a useful material for rooting mixtures and occasionally used in Potting mix. It helps lighten heavy soils. Gypsum is a mineral which works to loosen compacted clay soils thus improving nutrient uptake through better root structure. When soil is dense plant roots have a difficult time extracting food from it. Should be used in conjuction with organic fertilisers.It provides calcium and Sulphur. Coarse Sand is a valuable addition for opening up Potting mix. Do not use sand from the beach which is likely to contain harmful salts unless it has been specified washed. We sell peat as coco-peat compressed blocks which when added to water expand and can be mixed in the soil. We sell Sand as a component of our Potting mix and soil improver. Vermiculite, Perlite, Gypsum and Sphagnum moss we sell in bags.
To see if your soil is draining well, dig a hole and fill with water, if it drains away in an hour you have good drainage, if it takes a day you have slow drainage. If it sits overnight or longer you have poor drainage.
Soil PH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of the soil. The scale is 1-14 with 7 being neutral, below 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline soil. Some plants like to grow in acid soil others prefer alkaline soil and many others aren’t fussy. When the PH is wrong for a plant it won’t absorb nutrients. Adding lime and dolomite to the soil raises its PH, adding iron sulfate to soil can lower its PH or just use plants that are hardy and don’t need specific soil needs.
Tips for improving soil :