Proper Soil Mix - Knowledgebase Question

Philadelphia, PA
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Question by SkyPrnz
November 15, 1999
I live in the City of Philadelphia and have a small concrete backyard. I have a section of the yard "walled off" for gardening. The space is cinder block and mortar, no dirt of any kind. Sun is in the afternoon from the West. The previous resident allowed pets (dog and cats) to use the garden area as a toilet. I got rid of the old dirt and want to start new. I would like to know what the proper mix and type of soil and other nutrients(lime, sand, peat,etc.) I will need to have a healthy robust garden. I only plan on flowers and flowering plants. Maybe a shrub or three. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Answer from NGA
November 15, 1999
As I understand your description, in essence you are looking at a giant "container" and will need to continually renew or build the soil in order to keep it healthy by continually adding organic matter. You might start with an all purpose mixture of two parts soil, two parts peat moss or other fibrous organic material (old rotted leaves would be great) and one part builder's sand for better drainage. Then run some basic soil tests and see what the pH is and what nutrients are needed -- the results will reflect the specific soil and sand you use as well as the value of the other "organic" materials. Your County Extension (560-4150) can help you with the tests and interpreting the results. This is important because depending on the plants you wish to grow you may need a richer or leaner mix or a more acid or a more neutral soil or perhaps a faster or slower draining mix and these can all be adjusted to suit. Your choices may also be limited by the depth of the planting area and the amount of watering you are prepared to do. Fall is a good time to prepare the soil so I hope this gives you a good start!

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