The Q&A Archives: How important is soil selection for garden flowers?

Question: Please give me some advice on how soil selection affects my flowers during different seasons. Thanks.

Answer: Most perennials grow best in humus-rich soil that has a relatively even balance of clay, sand and silt particles, which are called loam. Loam will hold moisture for a reasonable time, yet will drain readily enough so roots do not get soggy after a rain. Before planting, incorporate some organic matter into the planting bed to ensure good drainage.

If you do not have a compost pile, you can add well-rotted manure, peat moss, leaf mold or straw. Keeping the soil aerated is one of the best things you can do for your plants. Roots are incapable of absorbing water and nutrients unless there is oxygen present in the soil.

Most perennials like a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0 in order to readily absorb elements from the soil. The term pH refers to the measurement of the concentrations of the hydrogen ion in a given substance from 0 to 14, 7 being the most neutral soil condition from acid to alkaline. Have your soil tested so you know what you're working with and whether or not you need to adjust the pH for plants with a preference for very acidic or alkaline soils. Soils that are too far out of range will make it difficult for plants to absorb the necessary minerals for good growth.

Check each perennial that you are planting to see how much water is required. Plants that like wet soils such as daylily, forget-me- not, lobelia and primrose need an area with moist soil; drought-tolerant plants such as butterfly flower, sages, rosemary, lavenders, etc. should be planted in an area where soils dry out readily.

And finally, before planting, research the sunshine requirement each plant has. Shade loving plants should be planted in shady areas; sun loving plants should get 6-8 hours of sunshine each day. Try to arrange your plants for height and blossoms that will bloom different times of the year and you will have an exceptionally beautiful garden. Enjoy!

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