With the spring season upon us, many of our customers are itching to get their hands dirty in the garden. Sadly, it’s still too early to be digging beds or sowing seeds – you want to wait until the threat of frost has passed (usually Victoria Day weekend in Southern Ontario) before you officially start planting your vegetable garden.
However, early spring is an ideal time to plan what types of fruits, vegetables and herbs you want to grow – many of which can be started indoors as seedlings. It’s also a great time to research the best soil options for your garden so that you yield a bountiful harvest throughout the growing season.
Here are some factors to consider:
In general, vegetable garden soil should be loose and well-draining, not heavy, like clay, or too sandy. The best way to test the consistency of your soil is by getting dirty – plunge your hand into the earth, grab a loose handful and let the material fall through your fingers. If large, sticky clumps remain, your soil has too much clay. If your hand is mostly clean, the sand content may be too high. The ideal soil should look rich and dark in colour, and not stay in a ball when you close your fist.
For vegetables to thrive, they need a healthy amount of organic material in the soil. Not only does this soften the soil, allowing the roots to permeate through the earth much easier, but organic material also helps the soil retain water so your plants don’t dry out. Organic material can come from compost or well-aged manure (more than six months old), or a combination of both.
N-P-K and Trace Nutrients
Here’s where things start to get scientific. There are three basic nutrients that all plants need: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (also known as N-P-K). Nitrogen is used by plants for leaf growth and good green colour; Phosphorous is used to form new roots, make seeds, fruit and flowers; and Potassium helps plants grow fast and strong. While organic material does provide these nutrients, you may need to amend your soil with fertilizers or other organic sources to get the right balance.
Vegetables also need a wide variety of trace minerals and nutrients to grow. These include Boron, Copper, Iron, Chloride, Manganese, Calcium, Molybdenum and Zinc. Our knowledgeable staff can help you determine the best way to support the nutrient levels in your soil – just ask us!
Soil pH is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity in soils. While exact pH requirements for vegetables can vary, the soil in a vegetable garden should fall somewhere be 6 and 7. If your soil tests significantly above that, you will need to lower the pH of the soil (usually with sulphur) or if it tests significantly lower than 6, you will need to raise the pH of your vegetable garden soil (limestone is effective).
Choose a High-Quality Triple Mix
Whether you are a first-time vegetable gardener or an experienced urban farmer, you can’t go wrong with using a high-quality triple mix for the basis of your garden. Comprised of one part sandy soil, one part compost and one part black loam, this mixture includes all the organic material, nutrients and minerals that your vegetables need to ensure a healthy crop. Plus, it offers the ideal texture that plants thrive in – one that’s not too sandy or too heavy; a soil that strikes a balance between drainage and water retention.
At Boulders Landscape Supply, we carry a wide range of soil mixes, mulches and aggregates for all your do-it-yourself landscaping projects with convenient delivery in Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington and the Greater Toronto Area.
No project is too small and no question too silly! Our friendly and helpful staff are happy to answer any questions that you may have, and suggest the best landscaping products and equipment to suit your budget and needs.
To connect with us about your next outdoor project, stop by Boulders Landscape Supply at 2480 Royal Windsor Drive in Mississauga or contact us to speak with an associate.