Standard operating practice dictates that I must once again complain about the weather.  Holy hot!  I guess these are the dog days of summer.  For those of you that enjoy the warmth, enjoy and savour while I pout.   But, I digress.

Many of you out there might be thinking your green thumb has morphed and faded to a sickly yellow or wilted brown while others are wondering if they are simply genetically lacking.  It may be neither.  It may, in fact, be your soil.

There is a definite science behind soil, and there are some plants that are designed to thrive in certain soils while having a strong disdain for others.  What does well in your neighbor’s yard, may tank in your own yard even though the conditions appear to be the same.  Sometimes, it’s not user-error.  Sometimes, it’s your soil.

Soil, of course, is an important part of gardening.  Soil provides roots with nutrients, water, and air.  Some would argue that soil is more important than sun, so its role is obviously vital in plant performance.  Soil is comprised of three mineral particles sizes; sand, silt, and clay.  Sand is comprised of large, course, particles.  Silt is comprised of fine particles, and clay is comprised of super fine particles.  Opposite of what you thought?  An ideal soil is comprised of equal amounts of all three.  The perfect soil is made up of 45% mineral, 5% organic matter, 25% water, and 25% air.  Sandy soils, for example, are made up of larger, courser particles with more air space between the particles; thereby, unable to retain water very well.  Clay soils, on the other hand, have very little air space and retain water a little too well.  Starting to make sense, right?  Soil that contains all three particles in significant amounts is called loam.  It would seem loam is the Holy Grail of all soils.  If you’re not sure what kind of soil you’re dealing with, you can have it tested and amended if need be, but never truly, permanently altered.

So, what does this all mean?  It means that you have to play to your strengths.  In other words, you should choose plants that match your soil.  Sometimes, this means giving up a favorite, but more times than not, it opens a whole new world of possibilities.  Of course, if your soil is truly poor, you can always look to container planting or raised beds, where you control the quality of the soil, and perhaps even achieve loam status.

“Essentially, all life depends upon the soil.  There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.”

–  Charles E. Kellogg

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney