5 Things to Know About Dirt

Lucy Mercer
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Planting with garden soil

Along with water and sunshine, the proper kind of soil will make a big difference in the quality of your flowers and vegetables.

Getting the dirt on the kind of dirt you have and amending it will put you on the right track for gardening success.

 

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Know your soil. It’s the rare gardener who is fortunate enough to begin with ideal soil — that loamy, friable dirt that holds together when you squeeze a handful. A sandy soil will fail to hold its shape when squeezed, and slightly damp clay soil clumps when squeezed.

 

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Acid or alkaline. A soil’s pH determines what plants will thrive in it. You can use a soil test kit or one from your local Cooperative Extension Service. Acidic soil can be amended with lime to make it more neutral or alkaline, while garden sulfur is added to alkaline soils to make them more acidic.

 

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Drainage. How water moves through the soil affects how often you’ll need to supplement rainfall. To achieve soil that is quick-draining but retentive, work in compost, Sphagnum peat moss and perlite.

 

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Soilless potting mix. It sounds like an oxymoron, but the best choice for container plantings is a soilless potting mix, usually composed of peat moss, pine bark, vermiculite, perlite and sand.

 

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Compost. The gardener’s “black gold,” compost improves any soil by enhancing drainage and providing nutrients as the material breaks down. Make your own or purchase it from the Garden Center, and use it as you till the bed, plant the seedlings, and even top dress mid-season.

 

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