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"Roses grow best on heavy clay soils with lots of organic matter helping to keep the surface roots moist and wet!"

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Starting a new garden, If your soil is heavy it sticks to your boots. The GardenAdvice team show you to how get started and get ahead on your new garden.

First you will need to establish a which type of soil you have.


The key item in any garden is the soil it’s the place to start. If your garden is windy, shady or has other problems the solutions will normally start with the soil if you can create the ideal soil conditions for the plants you wish to grow then they should get of to a flying start.

Generally there are 4 types of soil.

Clay - This is the most likely type of soil you will find in your garden. Most people think they have a problem once they discover the soil they have is a clay or clay loam. However if managed correctly is type of soil can be the most productive. The key on clay soils is to add lots of organic matter. One of the best ways of doing this is to dig into the soil 'spent mushroom compost ' which is available from mushroom growers that can be found in the yellow pages. Mushroom compost contains large amounts of lime, which helps the soil break down. Another favourite of the GardenAdvice team is a product called 6X, which is a soil activator. Imaging all the goodness of a load of farmyard manure condensed into a 25kg bag (for a few days afterwards you even get the smell too!) It gives the soil a great kick-start with out the need to barrow 2 to 3 tonnes of manure around your garden.

If you soil is very heavy then you should add some grit sand available by the tonne from your local builder's merchant. Simply spread it onto your soil and fork it in. A good guild is to spread it about 15 mm thick on the surface before you start forking it in. To work out the quantities one cubic metre general weights a tonne.

Sand - As with clay the best way to improve sandy soil is to add lots of organic matter again in the form of 'spent mushroom compost unless you intend to plant acid loving plants such as azaleas or rhododendrons. If you wish to plant acid loving plants then most council now produce good compost from the recycling programs they have in operation.

Silt - This type of soil is similar to clay but needs a soil test before you start to determine the correct course of action as the soil pH can be acid or alkaline. It is important not to work a silt soil in wet conditions as it can take a long time to recover. The beauty of a silt soil is that it allows you to grow the widest range of plants.

Chalk - The most difficult soil to have in a garden it often suits perennial plants but can destroy acid loving plants such as acres and magnolias. Because chalky soil is free draining you need to add organic matter in the form of compost or peat. One tip for chalky soil is that if you wish to grow acid loving plants you could try using sedge peat and flowers of sulphur in raised beds. But you should remember to add a light dressing of flowers of sulphur every year as the chemical reaction will help keep the rooting zone less alkaline.Drainage - Another important factor in garden soil is drainage. If you garden soil floods or puddles on the surface you need to start looking at solutions. Improving the soil structure digging can solve often drainage problems and adding organic matter or sand.

If after improving the soil structure it is still badly drained then you need to consider a land drainage scheme. The key item to consider is once the drainage scheme is installed the excess water will need to go some were. This can be a ditch or a soak away and ideally should be installed at the lowest point of the garden. The GardenAdvice team have produced two articles on installing drainage that can be found at -

Worms - no information on soil would be complete if it did not include an area on worms.

A healthy soil should contain worms, as they are a key element within the natural cycles that have established themselves within the soils structure. Worms create a good texture, drainage and incorporate organic matter into the soil by helping to turn it into humus. So if you are working in your garden and fail to find any worms then get some as soon as possible. Once you have added organic matter to the soil and solved any drainage troubles the worms should increase natural, but to increase the numbers add a few to a compost heap and watch them multiple over a few months.

Remember if you need any advice on your soil the gardenAdvice team can help through our free advice service.







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