A guide to soil maintenance
If you are trying to find a solution to healthy development of your plants, look no further. Following a proper soil preparation prior to planting, the soil maintenance is one of the key ingredients necessary to ideal growth of shrubs, trees, perennials and even annuals.
How to do it
As opposed to soil preparation, soil maintenance is a simpler task. The forks prongs don’t need to go all the way in into the soil, one fourth of the length is sufficient. By now your new selected plant material has developed new root growth and its disturbance should be avoided. Therefore, we don’t recommend rotavator or forking deep into the soil.
Tools you will need
All you need is a good garden fork. In some cases, you might get away with a soil cultivator, but a fork could be more beneficial earlier in the spring. During long, wet and cold winter months, the soil tends to compress down, creating a harder texture, and the sharp prongs of the fork will enter this substance easier.
When to maintain the soil?
We recommend maintaining your topsoil twice a year. First time in the spring after the winter to allow more air into compressed soil and second time in the autumn to improve water absorbance before winter.
Why is regular soil maintenance important? The main benefits lay in:
- Water absorbance and penetration
- Nutrient release
- Entry of additional nutrients
- Texture improvement
Water absorbance and penetration
Compressed soil becomes harder on the surface, disabling water to drain freely. This will mostly happen after the long winter months. During the heavy rainfall, creation of paddles can cause even more problems such as waterlogging. But don’t worry, this mostly applies to a very top layer of the soil and the solution is quite simple.
By disturbing the topsoil structure, whether done with a fork or cultivator, the newly created air pockets will accommodate the access water, which will then easily drain away.
During hotter summer months the proper drainage will ensure that the water, mainly supplied by you, gets deeper to ground where it can be easily found by the roots of your plants. If the water doesn’t get deep enough due to compressed topsoil structure, this would result in shallow watering followed by a shallow plant root system. In this case, soil maintenance can prevent a costly plant replacement in the future.
Unless your soil is extremely sandy, nutrition is always present but often becomes unavailable due to poor texture. Regular maintenance can help in their release.
By forking or cultivating your soil more oxygen is allowed in. Oxygen is a necessary element for a micro bacteria and worms inhabiting the topsoil to live and reproduce. The micro bacteria and worms are responsible for soil breakdown. When they are thriving, the soil breaks down rapidly which in turn results in faster release of nutrition.
Helping entry of additional nutrition
Some plants such as roses can benefit from an additional nutrition to help them flourish and bloom for a prolonged period. The fertiliser applied needs to dissolve in water before it becomes available to plant roots.
If the soil is compressed during fertiliser application, the water often washes away the extra nutrition or it simply remains on the surface of topsoil without entering it.
Always make sure to fork the soil prior or after plant food application to divert the supplements to where they are needed.
Texture improvement can be more labour and cost effective at times but your garden will greatly benefit from it.
If your garden soil is on clayey side, apply well-rotted manure once a year, assuming the horticultural grit or sand had been already incorporated during soil preparation prior to planting. Sandy soils will benefit from the manure too.
We recommend manure application in the autumn. Spread the layer of it on the topsoil and thoroughly fork in. The winter weather conditions such as frost and rain will help the manure and soil to fall apart. Coming the following spring, the soil maintenance will become an easier task.
If your soil is a loam, no further steps beyond forking or cultivating are necessary.
Another benefit of soil maintenance to consider is the appearance. Well maintained soil when converted to a fine tilt (soil broken down to very small clumps) will achieve the high standard of your flower and shrub borders.
If you are a green fingered enthusiast, you can fork your soil over as often as you are carrying out a wedding. This can be once a week or once a month. Nevertheless, as you know, the more often you undertake it the easier it is.
Soil maintenance is a task never to be underestimated. Your shrubs, trees and perennials will flourish, bringing a well-deserved look to your pride and joy.