Tending a garden can be one of the simple joys of homeownership.
If you’re planning on planting your first backyard crops this summer, taking the time to learn a little more about your soil could help you reap a more fruitful harvest.
To help you get the most out of your garden this season, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers the following tips for keeping your soil in top shape.
Many of the most common soil problems are related to texture. The texture of a soil is determined by its relative proportion of sand, silt, and clay.
In general, clay soils tend to be fertile but are often wet and poorly drained. Sandy soils drain easily but can be drought-prone and infertile. Loam, probably the most desirable soil texture, retains moisture and is fertile, crumbly and easy to work with.
To determine your soil’s texture, dry and crush a small amount by rubbing it in the palm of your hand. Then rub a pinch of the soil between your thumb and fingers. The grainier the soil feels, the higher its sand content is likely to be.
To test for clay, squeeze some moist soil in your hand and then pass it from hand to hand. The more it holds together, the higher the percentage of clay.
Other important qualities of good soil include its structure and porosity, moisture, fertility, pH level and the presence of earthworms, ants, and other life forms that can contribute to the health of your plants.
To find out more about these and other characteristics of your soil, contact your local garden centre, soil testing laboratory, or provincial agriculture ministry or department.
Once you are armed with a basic understanding of your soil’s properties, you can select plants that will be better suited to thrive in your garden and site conditions such as sun, shade, and anticipated rainfall.
Local nurseries, conservation agencies, plant catalogues, books, and websites can all help you identify which plants can tolerate a variety of soil textures and which are likely to have more specific soil requirements.
Although picking the right plants for your soil will minimize the need to add fertilizers or other amendments, there may still be some situations in which these additions will be unavoidable.
If your garden has a high clay content, for example, you will probably need to aerate the soil and work in some organic matter such as well-rotted manure, compost, grass clippings or leaves.
When your soil is in a healthy state, consider installing a rain garden to help maintain your plants.
A rain garden is an attractive, easy, and inexpensive way to reduce runoff and allow stormwater to soak more slowly into the ground.
For more information or a free copy of the "About Your House" fact sheet entitled Get to Know Your Soil or other fact sheets on owning, maintaining or renovating your home, call CMHC at 1-800-668-2642 or visit our website at www.cmhc..ca.
For more than 60 years, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has been Canada’s national housing agency.