When thinking about your Houston landscape, your key ingredient is the planting soil.
It is the foundation from which all your glorious plant material will spring. Your blooming vines, verdant bushes, flowering trees and seasonal color are the beneficiaries of this important and necessary first step.
In the excitement of dreaming about planting gardens, it is a common mistake to skimp on the items you can’t see, like planting soil. But Exterior Worlds proposes that proper site preparation is a sure formula for lasting success.
Soil is a mixture of minerals, rock particles, organic matter, oxygen, micro-organisms and water. The dirt component is usually a mixture of sand, silt and clay, with one predominant element. In Houston, our soil has a high concentration of clay, which presents special challenges.
Rich in the mineral-based elements and nutrients that plants need, clay soils can also easily become compacted, especially with regular use, such as foot or vehicular traffic. At the same time, it can also quickly become waterlogged. Vital air pockets fill with water and can kill off soil organisms and injure or destroy plant roots.
Heavy clay soil benefits from added fibrous material and sand. With clay soils, organic matter, such as leaf composts and pine bark, breaks up the small tight-sticking mineral particles to create larger pore spaces that drain more easily and hold oxygen. We recommend this ratio for planting soil: 1/3 loam (or soil), 1/3 sand, and 1/3 organic matter.
We also recommend that new beds lie fallow for a few weeks, which will give them time to settle. For low-lying areas or zones with drainage problems, we encourage our clients to use raised beds to keep the root systems of your plants from sitting in water for long periods. You want soil that retains moisture, but doesn’t remain wet.
Another issue with high-content clay planting soil, especially in combination with our Texas coastal weather that is subject to torrential rains, is to avoid working the soil or walking on your garden beds when they are wet. This good practice will decrease the possibility of more soil compaction.
Once the soil is properly prepared, the next best bet in dealing with clay soil is mulch installation. Mulching between plants keeps the clay soil from forming a crust. However, bear in mind that there is too much of a good thing. We are always careful not to apply mulch up the trunks or stalks of plants as it can hinder their health.
The condition of your soil is particularly important if you are planting azaleas. These magnificent plants that herald spring in Houston really thrive when their soil is healthy. The same applies if you are planting roses.
Exterior Worlds is one of this region’s premier professionallawn and garden services providers. We can do the labor-intensive and proper soil preparation as well as the regular application of mulch. Both will render long-term benefits.
The dream of your landscape garden design awaits. And, just like the journey of 1,000 steps, it begins with the all-important first one: your soil preparation.