As you are getting down and dirty in the garden these days, take a step back and really take a good look at your soil. Yep, that’s the most important building block of a successful garden. Same as you can’t build a good house on a poor foundation, you cannot create a good garden in poor soil. What make a soil “good”? Well…a few factors are fundamental:
All soils are composed of four basic components: mineral particles, organic matter, air and water. These components contribute to the texture and the structure of the soil. You should determine the basic type of soil that you have: whether it be sandy, clay, loamy, wet, dry, rock or a pretty good balance.
The ideal garden soil has a crumbly soil texture with few or no stones; sufficient nutrients to support the plants, sufficiently free draining to prevent waterlogging, sufficient lime to counteract soil sourness and sufficient organic matter to ensure high bacterial activity. Does your soil have all these elements?
Most of us would not be able to determine all this ourselves so if you have never had a soil test done on your soil, I highly recommend that you do. You can save yourself a lot of grief if you know what you are actually working with. This is a link to the Dept. of Agriculture site for arranging a soil test – not expensive and definitely worth taking the time to do it: http://www.novascotia.ca/agri/qe/labserv/soilsamp.shtml . Once you have an accurate report from your soil test, then you can do the treatments to improve your specific soil.
However, it is pretty hard work to completely change the basic nature of your soil. The best approach, in my opinion, is to choose the right plants for the type of soil and the site that you have. We will be happy to help you with that to the best of our ability down here at The Bayside in Whycocomagh.
A link regarding lime: http://encap.net/how-to-tell-if-you-need-to-lime/
I like this lady’s take on preparing a garden: http://www.gardenweb.com/sesbania/newgard.html