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
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.