Landscape: Gardens

Soil

I would venture to say that almost no one really understands the true chemical make-up of the ground around their home. This is sad because you really should know something about your soil before you stick plants in it and expect them to grow. Understanding your dirt is especially important during the landscape design process in order to select plantings that will have the best chance of success. Also, it will tell you how to amend your dirt with nutrients that it may be lacking to support the kinds of plants you desire to grow. Here’s an easy to use kit to test your soil:

Planting soilSoil Testing Kit


Grade

Ideally, the grade around your home should have a minimum 2 percent slope away from the home. “Ideally”, of course, almost never happens. In most cases, natural drainage swales do not follow nice neat property boundaries. Maintain the slopes around your home to permit the water to drain away from the home as rapidly as possible. This is important ultimately to protect your foundation.

Any new imported soil should be of good quality mixed with sufficient organic material. Use mulch in planting areas at least 3 inches deep to hold soil moisture and to help prevent weeds and soil compaction.

Maintain the gently sloping grades surrounding your home. This is important because the native soil, (from 3’ to 4’ out) around your foundation was excavated to allow room to work, then backfilled. In addition, trenching occurred for the installation of utility lines. These backfilled areas are prone to settling, especially after prolonged or heavy rainfall or the melting of large amounts of snow. Settling can continue for several years.

To-Do

  • Get your soil tested and use the report to guide selection of plants and amendments.
  • Know your climate zone when selecting plants.

Maintenance

  • 1x per year: Inspect the grounds and fill any settled areas or areas with standing or ponding water that remains for more than 24 hours with new soil to blend in with the original grade.
  • 2x per year: Apply appropriate fertilizer, weed and pest controls as needed for optimal growth. Use organic compounds for amendments whenever possible to help protection of the environment.

Drawing of landscape grading plans with contour lines
Garden landscape grading plan

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