"Man - despite his artistic pretensions - owes his life to 6 inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains."
I tried to find the source of this quote, but couldn't nail it down to one definitive source. That said, this really drives home the importance of healthy soils. Whether you're growing vegetables to eat or creating calming landscapes full of native plants, without healthy soil, you won't have much to show for all your hard work.
WHAT MAKES FOR HEALTHY SOIL?
Healthy soil includes a number of different elements, including pH (acidity), nutrients, and drainage. Knowing what kind of soil your plants like is an important first step to a healthy garden.
Peonies prefer a healthy, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 - 7, meaning it should be mildly acidic or neutral. Using compost and an organic fertilizer will help create healthy beautiful blooms, whether you're planting outdoors or in a container.
HOW DO I PREPARE MY SOIL BEFORE PLANTING?
Before planting every year, add a layer of organic compost or other well-rotted plant material and turn it over to mix it in. This will help maintain and build the nutrients in your soil for a successful growing season. Work this into the soil when it's moist, but not wet.
You can also check the pH of your soil with a number of test kits available and make appropriate adjustments to correct any imbalances in pH.
DO I NEED TO PROTECT MY SOIL AFTER THE GROWING SEASON?
In a word, yes! You can do a number of things to care for the soil in your gardens after the growing season is over, including:
- removing old and dead plants
- turning over the soil
- adding a layer of compost
- covering the soil with leaves, grass clippings, or wood chips to protect it from the elements during the winter and reduce erosion
Caring for your soil all year long can help produce successful and beautiful gardens year after year!