Reasons to Analyze Soil

The soil test provides a starting place for a soil improvement program for the home gardener. Unless you know the problems in your garden soil, you are only guessing when you apply fertilizer. For soil testing information contact the Oklahoma County Extension Center, 930 N Portland, Oklahoma City, (405) 713-1125.

  • Learn what type of soil composition you have (clay, sandy etc.)
  • Find out what your soil is lacking (nutrients, micronutrients, etc.)
  • Pinpoint soil pH (alkaline or acid)
  • Bring your results to TLC Garden Centers and we will help you determine how to amend your soil for the best results


Fertilizers are used to prevent or overcome nutrient stress in plants. Fertilizers usually contain one or more of three important elements—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

  • N (nitrogen) is needed for the development of dark, green color in plants. It is essential for rapid and continuous vegeta­tive growth.
  • P (phosphorus) aids plants in getting off to a rapid, vigor¬ous start, promotes early root formation, stimulates blooming and seed production, and hastens maturity.
  • K (potassium or potash) is needed for plant health and disease resistance. It is important in ripening of fruit and helps to develop full, plump seeds.

Bags of fertilizer contain three numbers, such as 5-3-3 which represent a percentage of N-P-K in that bag. For example: a bag of 5-3-3 fertilizer contains 5% N, 3% P and 3% K. Fertilizers may also supply other elements or micro-nutrients essential for the growth of healthy plants.

Slow- vs. Quick-Release Fertilizers

Slow-release means that the nitrogen does not dis¬solve in water. The nitrogen must be broken down by soil microbes and by soil chemicals to be in a form that plants can use. Slow-release fertilizers, since they do not leach quickly, can supply nutrients to plants for a longer period than quick-release forms. TLC Tree, Shrub, and Landscape Food and Osmocote Plant Food are both good slow-release fertilizers.

Quick-release fertilizers easily dissolve in water. They are fast enough to correct a deficiency causing poor plant growth. Quick-release is best used in combination with a slow-release fertilizer. Miracle-Gro is a good quick-release fertilizer. Most plants will respond best to a fertilizer program that includes both a quick and slow-release fertilizer.

Vegetables, annuals, shrubs, trees, etc., have different fertilizer requirements. Please “Ask the Expert” for specific fertilizer recommendations.

Correcting Soil pH

The measure of the acidity or alkalinity of soil is referred to as the soil pH and is determined by a soil test. (Information on procedures for having your soil tested can be obtained from your county Extension office.) If the soil test shows the soil is too acidic, lime can be used to bring the soil into an optimum pH range. If the soil is too alkaline, sulfur is used to reduce the alkalinity. On the pH scale, soil that is neutral will have a reading of 7.0. Readings below 7.0 indicate the soil is acidic, while those reading above 7.0 indicate an alkaline condition. Vegetable crops, as a group, prefer a slightly acidic soil of about 6.5 pH.

Bed Preparation and Planting

  • Dig the hole twice the width of the root ball or container; or prepare the entire bed area.
  • Remove existing grass and weeds.
  • Prepare the soil with a mixture of 50% Back To Earth™ Composted Cotton Burrs and 50% existing soil.
  • Add a 3” layer of Expanded Shale for heavy clay soils.
  • Expanded Shale for heavy clay soils.
  • Plants should be planted with the top of their root system level or slightly higher than the surrounding soil.
  • Backfill the hole with the prepared soil and Osmocote Plant Food. Tamp the soil firmly around the root ball to eliminate air pockets.
  • Slowly water the plants immediately after planting until the soil is saturated. Later in the day, water a second time using
  • Fertilome™ Root Stimulator to stimulate early root growth and stability.
  • Finish by applying a 3 inch layer of Grade A Cedar Mulch, Grade A Cypress Mulch, or Pecan Hulls.

Vegetables, annuals, shrubs, trees, lawns, etc., have different fertilizer and pH requirements. Please “Ask the TLC Expert” for specific fertilizer recommendations.


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