Stable and healthy roots are the foremost factor that warrants the well-being of a plant because of the crucial functions it carries out, for example, water and nutrient absorption and holding the plant to the ground. For the roots to execute these functions, the soil must be well prepared and all necessary action to enrich it taken. So, planting your flowers should not be just plopping them in any type of soil. It needs to be pampered with all the care or else no plant will survive in it. Preparing is a step by step process and quiet laboring sometimes but it sure pays off when the flowers do really well.
Before preparing the soil, you will need to equip yourself with the right information on how to test contents in the soil, the nature of the soil and how well you can maintain and manage it before and after planting your flowers to keep them in good shape. Random dirt may not contain the nutrients and required characteristics for the flowers to grow in and that is why it needs to be examined and adjusted where necessary. Some of the basic exercises you need to carry out include the following;
Determining the Soil pH
To test soil pH, you can either hire a professional to do it for you or you can do it yourself using simple soil test kits that you can get from the nearest source. Ensure that you select flowers that are compatible with the pH of your soil and if they are not, it is important to adjust the pH levels to suit them or, you can go for the flowers that can survive in that soil. Altering with the pH will demand some keen considerations:
- When the soil is acidic, lime is added to neutralize it. Pouring the lime randomly might result to overuse, making the soil harmful or might end up using less than what is required, which ends up not completely doing away with the acidity so make sure you follow the given instructions on usage. The amount of lime you will use will be determined by the acid levels in the soil and the size of your piece of land.
- When the soil has high alkalinity levels, it is neutralized by:
+ Organic fertilizers like sulfur or pine needles and barks etc.
+ Other inorganic fertilizers that contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K fertilizers).
+ Compost, that has multiple functions i.e. fertilizing and adding nutrients to the soil.
If you don’t plan on planting immediately, mulching the piece of land will help protect the soil from extreme weather conditions, hold weeds in check and using organic mulch keeps the soil rich.
Note: Annual frequent checkups will be necessary if the soil pH levels are okay and therefore, there will be no need of making any immediate adjustments to it.
Carrying out a Soil Test
The importance of a soil test is to know the type of soil you are dealing with and how productive it is. Acquire or procure a soil test kit, and follow the guide given for perfect results. Only use what is necessary and avoid adding an excess of anything to the soil to avoid weakening or making the soil toxic.
Examine the Soil Texture
Determining the texture of the soil helps to know how clayey, sandy or even loamy the soil is. This helps to know how quickly or slowly the soil will drain water and predict the nutrient level in the soil. Soils with relatively high sand volumes tend to be well aerated. On the other hand, since they lack ample nutrients and drain water very fast, they need frequent watering and lots of fertilizing to supply nutrients and moisture.
Clayey soils are highly fertile, contain enough nutrients and retain water for longer periods than sandy soils. They, therefore, don’t need frequent watering or fertilizing.
Soils with equal or almost equal amounts of both the clay and the sand have a very good drainage system and enough nutrients.
Testing the Soil Drainage
Carrying out a soil drainage test will help you know how frequent watering will be needed and if you will need to make adjustments to the draining system in case it is poor. To test the drainage, carry out a simple test by digging up a hole, filling it with water then wait to see how long the water takes to drain in the soil. 12 to 30 minutes means that the soil has an ideal drainage, below 12 minutes means that the soil is likely to dry quickly and above 30 minutes means that the soil is soggy.
After learning about the soil and making all necessary amendments to it, you need to prepare a bed. The bed can be a raised bed that should be at least 6 inches high to allow for proper penetration of roots or a double-dig bed - usually tilled twice - for flowers with deep roots like roses. The size of the bed should be determined by the number of flowers you wish to plant. Attach strings to pegs or use a hosepipe to measure and mark boundaries and to ensure straight or curved edges.
To prepare the bed, you will need to:
- Dig the marked place to remove sod and stones if it is a new bed, but if it was planted before and there is no sod or stones, no digging will be required. Optionally, place no less than three layers of newspapers, proceed to cover them with 3-inch compost and wait for at least 3 weeks for them to decay and for the area to be ready for planting.
- The next step will be tilling the bed(s). This aims at smoothing out the soil by loosening huge impenetrable lumps. Moist soil is the best to work with, so always avoid working with soil that is either wet or dry. Doing it more than once will rather tighten the soil so one round of tilling is enough.
As a gardener, watching your flowers bloom and become a beautiful garden can be exciting and quite satisfying but for it to be so, you need to do the first things first and do them correctly by properly preparing the soil, which is home to the flowers i.e. from carrying out all soil tests to digging and tilling it. The fruits of all the hard work, of course, come later so when they do, be strict and disciplined when it comes to taking care of the flowers in that you water, fertilize at the right time and even trim them if need be. It sure is a lot of handiwork but totally worth it.