Garden Maintenance

To maintain a garden so that it is a healthy ecoscape it requires many different tasks. It involves monitoring the garden for weeds, pests and disease. It requires ongoing nourishment. It needs ongoing weeding to prevent weeds from taking over. It needs pruning at the proper time of year. It often requires dividing perennials when they have lost flower production or they have become root bound. There are many other aspects of the garden  that need to be done at different times of the year and these are just a few.  Good soil supports the growth of healthy plants, which in turn are more resistant to pests and disease. A healthy soil will be a dark brown or black color. If soil is any other color it could use some organic matter such as compost, well-rotted manure or composted leaves. Soil organisms

then loosen the soil so that water, air and nutrients can be absorbed by the

plants easily.

There are many types of soil textures. Nutrients and water leach through

sandy soil quickly, however, clay soil holds nutrients and doesn’t let water or air

circulate. Mixing a 3.5-4 inch layer of organic matter in to the top 10 to 12 inches

of soil will improve these soils. In existing gardens add 1 to 2 inches of compost

yearly. Compacted soils will benefit from a yearly top dressing of compost as

well. Lawns benefit from a compost dressing in spring and fall.

The pH scale measures the soil's acidity or alkalinity. The scale ranges from 0 to

14. The 0 indicates the most acidic soil, the 14 is the most alkaline and 7 is neutral.

Soil never runs towards the scales extremes however small numeric differences

can have large effects on plant growth. A soil pH test should always be used to

determine your soil pH. Soil in the lower mainland is naturally acidic. Plants such

as pieris, hydrangea, magnolia, dogwood, rhododendrons, blueberries and

viburnum prefer acidic soil and thrive in this type of soil. On the other hand grass

prefers alkaline soil. In order to bring the pH level up to make the soil more alkaline

we add lime, an organic amendment. Other plants that like alkaline soil that would

benefit from lime is clematis, lilac and rose of Sharon. Moss on the other hand likes

acidic soil and we all know how well it grows in our coastal climate!

Providing the right soil ph is very important because many plants will have trouble

absorbing nutrients, fighting disease and will not thrive if the correct soil ph is not

available. Most plants however are adaptable to ph levels between 5.5 and 7 and it

is not difficult to adjust the soils pH levels by 1 point. Lime will increase the alkalinity.

On the other hand ammonium sulphate or elemental sulphur will increase acidity.

Sulphur will change the ph faster than ammonium sulphate. It is recommended that

you first have a soil test done so that proper amounts of sulphur can be added.

Always follow instructions on the package when adjusting the ph level.