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Soil: The Key to Great Garden Beds

General Information

Soil Specifics

Soil is the most important aspect of gardening.

The success or failure of gardening depends heavily on how gardeners prepare their soil. Understanding your soil guides you in watering and fertilizing your plants. The result is healthier, more beautiful plants. A lucky few are blessed with naturally good soil, however most soils in Oklahoma need improvement.  The best investment a gardener can make to ensure hardy plants, luscious blooms, and abundant fruit and vegetables, is improving the health of the soil.  With time and effort, you can improve the texture and condition of your soil, but keep in mind, improving the soil is an ongoing process.

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, 2500 NE 63rd St, 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

Organic Matter

Adding several inches of organic matter to the soil each year helps the soil in several ways by:

  • loosening tight clay soils to improve drainage and aeration, and make fertilizers more readily available
  • helping sandy soils hold moisture and nutrients, and protecting against erosion
  • providing some of the nitrogen needed by plants and reducing soil’s alkalinity
  • increasing populations of beneficial soil organisms

The addition of organic matter to the soil does not reduce infestation of weeds, diminish plant diseases, nor protect crops from insect attack. Nor does it have any marked influence on the vitamin content of crops grown in the soil.

Back to Earth Composted Cotton Burrs

Back to Earth is ideal general-purpose mulch for amending clay or sandy soils. Back to Earth compost can quickly start improvement of such soils, since it begins to function immediately restoring vital organic matter and humus to soils, regardless of soil conditions. This product contains no chemicals, weeds, insects, or harmful pathogens.

Flower Beds & Vegetable Gardens – Spread Back to Earth 2″-3″ thick over entire area to be planted. Turn or till to a depth of 4″-8″ mixing it thoroughly with the existing soil, then plant and water adequately to keep ground moist but not wet.

Trees & Shrubs – Prepare a hole 1/3 to 1/2 larger than the root ball of the plant or tree. Mix 25% to 50% Back to Earth with existing soil. Backfill hole with prepared mixture making sure root ball is level with ground. Water well, taking care that no air pockets are left around the roots.

Expanded Shale

Soil Mender Expanded Shale is a great way to loosen and aerate clay soils and improve moisture retention in sandy soils. Thousands of tiny pores in expanded shale quickly absorb moisture and slowly release it into your soil. Expanded shale should not be used in place of an organic matter, such as Back To Earth, but should be added if you have a lot of clay in your soil.

Application – mix or till 1 to 3 inches of expanded shale into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil.

Bed Preparation and Planting

  • Remove existing grass and weeds.
  • Dig the hole twice the width of the root ball or container; or prepare the entire bed area.
  • Prepare the soil with a mixture of 50% Back To Earth TM Composted Cotton Burrs and 50% existing soil. Add a 3” layer of 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 FertilomeTM Root Stimulator to stimulate root growth.

Finish by applying a 3 inch layer of Grade A Cedar Mulch, Grade A Cypress Mulch, or Pecan Hulls.

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