This is a very common question we get asked quite a lot at the nursery. It is a question with many answers. Let’ start with our native soil. It is normally full of clay and high in salts or it is very sandy and depleted of nutrients. The problem with clay is it absorbs water which will normally cause your plants to rot and the salts will cause the leaves to burn. The sandy soil does not hold a lot of moisture so some plants dry out too fast and the fast drainage also does not store nutrients well.
If you have a clay base soil the best amendment recipe would be to add Planter’s Mix and Mulch (compost) and Gypsum. If you have a lot of clay, then I would use Amended Topsoil instead of Planter’s Mix. The use of gypsum is a must. This mineral’s biggest benefit to your soil is how it breaks up the clay so the soil drains better. Once the soil drains better the salts will then start to leach out. It also will neutralize the PH level in the soil, which in high clay soils is very alkaline. This is why it is hard to grow plants like azalea, camellia, gardenia, and surprisingly blueberries. These all need an acid PH range in the soil. Using peat moss or a specific azalea/camellia mix would be the amendment for acid loving plants. Specific fertilizers like Miracid and GreenAll Camellia, Azalea & Gardenia food would have to be used to keep the soil acidic throughout the year. Cotton Seed Meal is used a lot with Blueberries since it is more natural in the soil. The soil will revert back naturally to its native state in most cases, similar to the clay which will basically grow back in the soil. This is why we recommend the use of gypsum three times a year.
A sandy soil is a better problem to have. Clay creates rot which is certain death for plants, while sand will create drought stress, which most plants can survive or better defend against. Adding Amended Topsoil and Planters Mix together is normally the best bet for a sandy soil. The lighter the color of your native soil will dictate how much more Amended Topsoil to use. In some cases adding straight dirt which is the Amended Topsoil without the mulch in it is required for areas that are really sandy or the soil looks bleached out. We sell it by the yard as Garden Soil. The use of gypsum is not as necessary in this type of soil, but still recommended to neutralize the PH. Gypsum is cheap and is not harmful to the soil or plants, but has many benefits as discussed before. Sandy soil is great for succulents and cactus. The mix for these type of plants is very sandy. Citrus and palms also like this type of soil. We sell specific soil mixes for succulents, citrus, and palm trees.
Basically, the most important part of your garden should be the soil. Bad soil is the nucleus for fungus, insects, ugly plants, dead plants, and bad tasting veggies and fruits. It is something you should invest in at planting and then maintain on a regular basis. Simple additions of amendments, minerals, and nutrients during the early years will help build up your soil so you will have to do a lot less later on. Bring us in a sample so we can help you determine the best recipe for your Garden of Eden and not a barren desert.