Soil conditions

First, assess the light conditions for your new garden. Now, assess your soil conditions. There are pollinator plants for every type of soil and light conditions and you can save yourself time and trouble by planting the right plant in the right place.

Is your soil:

  • sandy and well-draining?
  • clay, which is pale and like cement when it’s dry? When it is wet it becomes heavy, slippery, and sticks to your shovel and shoes.
  • loamy like a forest floor? This soil is full of decomposed leaves and other organic matter, so it drains well and hold moisture.
  • wet, like near an eavestrough downspout or a low depression?
  • dry underneath a dense tree canopy, or on a slope?

Amending soil?

Why go through the extra work of amending your soil when you don’t need to? The conventional practice of adding compost, peat moss, and fertilizers is geared for growing vegetables and other plants that aren’t as hardy or suitable for our conditions.

Leave your soil as is for native plants. Many native plants will actually suffer in soil that it too rich. For example, prairie plants tend to grow taller than normal and flop over in amended garden soil. As the saying goes, put the right plant in the right place.

Oddly, I always seem to need more soil. I usually buy topsoil from Greely Sand and Gravel. As long as the topsoil isn’t very deep, it shouldn’t interfere with normal native plant growth.

Soil testing

It is often recommended that you get a soil test before you start planting a garden. I have never done this and have never had any problems. As you can probably tell so far, I don’t always do things the way I should, and sometimes end up learning the hard way. So far, I’ve been lucky, I guess.