I became a gardener after I moved to Utah. I thought everyone had to jump on the rim of a shovel with both feet just to force it into the rock hard ground.
Then I rescued my Mother's Peonies and discovered the awful truth. Her soil was rich, black, loose and... downright fabulous. Now I have a deep appreciation for soil amendments.
Grab a handful of wet soil and squeeze it into a ball. Clay soil will form a ball and not break apart very easily. [Congratulations! You're stuck with what I have.] If you can't make a ball, your dilemma is sandy soil. Both problems can be fixed by mixing in a little compost whenever you're playing in the dirt.
Soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.5. Anything lower is too acidic, anything higher is too alkaline for a happy garden.
- Alkaline: Lower pH with sphagnum peat moss or pine needles.
- Acidic: Raise pH by adding crushed egg shells, wood ashes, or lime.
Earthworms and other soil dwelling insects aerate the soil as they move through it and contribute more organic matter with their waste and decomposition. This is how great garden soil is born.
PS: Synthetic fertilizers (such as Miracle Gro) add nothing to the soil's fertility. Plus, they contain salt which can kill the beneficial bugs, build up in the soil and cause harm to the plants you're allegedly trying to pamper.
* Dedicated to Gail, who has problem soil like mine.