The Q&A Archives: Amending planting beds

Question: Our beds are choked with roots and the soil level is even with the concrete border. How can I amend the soil without harming the palms, ferns and bird of paradise that I want to retain?

Answer: You may compromise the health of your existing plants if you dig organic matter into the soil, especially if the root systems are well established. Your alternative would be to punch holes into the soil with a garden fork or cultivator and then spread a few inches of compost or other organic matter over the top of the soil, allowing rainfall and water from the hose work it into the holes in the soil. (it's a little like aerating your lawn) Reapplying every year and carefully digging some of it in around the plants, with a hand trowel or hand fork, won't hurt the plants and will benefit both the plants and the soil.

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