How to prepare soil for planting – five tips for the best soil

Monty Don reveals he came into gardening 'through soil'

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Plants are living, breathing organisms that require care to thrive, much like most humans. As such, they need a solid foundation to grow, with soil that provides water and appropriate nourishment. Express.co.uk has compiled a selection of tips for gardeners trying to cultivate their soil.

Organic matter

The best soil is much more than dirt, as gardeners can augment the mixture with organic matter.

In this case, “organic” means anything compostable and biodegradable, including leaf mould, manure or bark.

Growing plants will feed off the nutrients this matter feeds into the soil.

Bide your time

Soils come in various types, and each one reacts in a different way to the weather.

People should start preparing light, sandy soils around now, as they perform best in the spring.

Clay soil develops best in the autumn, as, according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), digging into it will allow it to absorb frost and rain.

Make clay malleable

Enhancing clay soil – which is often more stubborn – with soil should make it more workable.

The RHS states “sharp” sand improves the structure of clay-based soil unless it is “very heavy”.

In this case, the society recommends mixing well-rotted organic matter instead.

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Use the right tools

While novice gardeners won’t have much at their disposal, an arsenal will help produce the best soil.

Experts recommend the following tools:

  • A shovel: For bulk digging
  • A spade: For more intricate digging
  • Sand: For marking out borders
  • A wheelbarrow: For carrying off debris
  • A fork: For raking over turf or soil
  • A rotovator: For covering a wide area

Don’t get out of your depth

Most plants have an ideal depth at which they develop best.

Ideally, they should have at least 15cm to 20cm for the roots to embed.

Root vegetables need a little more room – potentially twice as much – up to 30cm.

Check the seed packet or garden centre instructions when buying for the best results with your plants.

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