Have you ever driven by a beautifully, lush landscape that is full of flowering plants and wonder how come their landscape looks so much better than all the others on the block? Ever question why one landscape company’s bid is much less than another’s?
One of the most important, yet overlooked, requirements for a beautiful garden or landscape begins with great soil. Plants will live, die, struggle, or thrive based on the condition of the soil in which they are planted. As Alexander Graham Bell said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” The lack of sufficient soil preparation before plantings are installed is one of the primary, and most avoidable, reasons for an unhealthy landscape.
Just like us, plants are living organism that need the proper environment to thrive. Yet all too often, in the rush to have instant-flowering, quickly-growing landscapes little, if any, attention is given to the soil that will allow these plants to flourish. Though many try to skip this labor intensive step, when it comes to shortcuts for achieving great, long-term results in your landscape, there simply aren’t any.
Proper soil preparation addresses two main issues. The first deals with ensuring the adequate supply of nutrients that will allow your plants grow. The second pertains to creating a soil structure that allows your plants to properly obtain and uptake those nutrients. Chances are, your native soil in Northern VA is either clay, which can cause poor drainage, or soil which is more rock than soil. Obviously, neither condition is desirable for your plants.
For the best results, our landscape beds are tilled to a depth of 10” to 12”, removing larger rocks or debris that are brought to the surface during this step. We then add 4”+ layer of organic matter mixed with screened topsoil. By adding a sufficient amount of soil and organic material to the soil, we not only improve the nutrient levels and reduce compaction rates, we also slightly increase the height of the landscape bed, allowing for better drainage and a better visual effect for the plantings. With over 50% of tree roots and over 80% of shrub, perennial, and annual flower roots growing in the top 12” of soil, we really want to put the majority of effort into this top layer. When the holes are dug for the plants (the planting hole should be about 3X as wide as the root ball or container) the excavated soil is mixed with the backfill and then lightly packed or soaked into the planting hole.
All this extra work requires more labor and soil than just adding a few bags of topsoil to your planting holes but it rewards our clients with plants that grow well in their new environments, are better able to withstand dry periods and live longer. Check out a few of these beautiful planting jobs we installed that have thrived in their great soil.