Why bother learning about soil? I’m guessing that as a new gardener, you just want to learn how to grow something. A few pretty flowers for your front garden. A few tomatoes for the dinner table. And I get that – I really do.
But in order to grow great plants, you have to give them what they need not just to survive, but to thrive. And good soil builds good plants.
If all this talk about soil bores you to death, and you just want to get to the “good stuff”, then just do the following for me, will you?
- Call your local Cooperative Extension office and ask them how much a soil test costs.
- Pick up a soil test kit OR use clean plastic containers with lids from your kitchen.
- Dig several samples and place each sample in a separate container. Dig the samples from the same depth down into the soil. Take the soil samples from around the area where you want to grow your plants. LABEL each sample with the location.
- Drop them off at your Cooperative Extension office and pay for your soil tests.
- When the results arrive, sit down with the agent and go over his recommendations carefully. He or she will tell you exactly what’s needed to add to the soil. Then, follow the directions.
Why can’t you just buy a plant at the garden center, dig a hole, and plunk it down? Isn’t that good enough?
I don’t want you to do this because I don’t want you to fail. I don’t want you to join the ranks of would-be gardeners who dreamed big dreams but failed to do the proper steps necessary to make those big dreams turn into reality.
So many people want the fresh vegetables, but they don’t want the work. They want pretty yards, but they don’t want the work. They want to garden but they don’t want the WAIT.
True gardeners know that great soil is where it’s at. If your soil is good, then your plants will be great.
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.