When many people think of landscaping their minds will conjure up images of beautifully manicured lawns, unique garden ornaments, stunning displays of plants and flowers, not to mention water features including swimming pools in larger gardens.
Whilst all of these are highly desirable and get included in many landscape designs, there is one element of every landscape project which barely gets a mention, or at least it does not when those creating the garden are not professionals. We are referring to soil, and as it is the basis for everything that grows in a landscaped garden, it is shocking that in many cases it does not get more attention than it should.
We mentioned non-professional landscapers, and although we do not doubt their willingness to do a good job, it stands to reason that their knowledge and experience of landscaping and in particular soils will not be at the same high level as professional landscaping companies.
The potential problem that can create is that, without knowing soil types, their nutritional levels, and what vegetation, flowers, and trees are more suited to specific soils than others, there is a risk that the completed garden and what grows in it will not flourish.
This brings us to a key choice that every homeowner must make concerning a landscape design, and that is what soils will be most suited to it. It may even be, that in larger gardens, and with the option of having many different plants, more than one choice of soil has to be made.
Although we could not possibly teach you everything there is to know about soils for landscaping in a single article, what we can do is give you some core advice as to what you should consider when assessing soil.
What To Consider When Choosing Soil For A Landscaped Garden
The simple fact is, there are several points you must consider when choosing soils for your landscaping. Remember, unless your garden is extremely small, if you are going to have a variety of plants then you may need to choose two or more different soils based on what you plan to grow.
For most soils, you need to consider their characteristics which come under three different properties, namely physical, biological, and chemical. Let us look at each of these in more detail.
The physical properties of any soil come from two main attributes which are its structure and its texture. Soil structure is how the different particles combine to form particle groups. Those particle types can include clay, sand, and salt, for example, and will vary depending on the location of the soil. You also need to take account of the spaces within the soil which allow for aeration, drainage, and penetration by the roots of plants.
Soil texture refers to how the various particles that form the soil’s structure are distributed throughout it. This distribution of particles can impact positively or negatively on the soil’s ability to retain nutrients and water. Most soils are classified as having light or heavy texture, with light soils having higher sand proportions whereas heavy soils are more clay-based.
As the name suggests, the biological properties of soil are influenced by the organisms which live within it. This can apply to microscopic organisms such as bacteria, all the way up to larger organisms such as worms and even moles. These larger creatures are what create the spaces within the soil that are needed for water drainage and aeration.
The contribution made by the micro-organisms is they break down other matter within the soil which in turn helps to provide the nutrients for the plants which grow in the soil. If you know your soil lacks these micro-organisms they can be added to it as required.
A soil’s chemical properties will be most influenced by its location and the chemicals found in that area. It is important because it significantly influences what can grow, and how quickly it can grow based on two key chemical properties which are soil solution and cation exchange capacity.
Soil solution is a term used to describe the soil water and the dissolved salts within it. These salts include magnesium, sodium, calcium, and potassium to varying degrees. This is classified as the soil’s pH level. The salts within the soil water are essential for plant growth as they supply many of their nutrients.
Cation exchange capacity is simply how well the soil can absorb nutrients. Cations are negatively charged ions within the soil and the higher their concentration the better the soul is at retaining its nutritional levels.