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Do's and Don't's to Soil Amending: How To Take Care Of Your Soil

Do's and Don't's to Soil Amending: How To Take Care Of Your Soil

Healthy soil is one of the major keys to healthy plants, and here at Lindley's, we are passionate about equipping you with the tools you need to really show off your green thumb. There are a lot of things to know when it comes to taking care of your soil, especially when it comes to soil amending. Read on as we break down the do's and don't's of soil amending.


Know your soil and have it tested for pH and soluble salts. If soil is too acid or too alkaline it locks up the nutrients in the soil and makes them unavailable to the plant.


How to collect a soil sample for analysis for soil pH testing:

Remove samples of soil from the surface down to 6 inches below the surface. Mix three to five samples from one area together.  Bring two cups of the mix in a sealable plastic bag or container to Lindley’s. Label the sample carefully so you will know which area it represents. Collect samples of soil in this way for each area you want to measure.

The pH is a measure of acidity and ranges from 0 to 14. Below 7 is acid, above 7 is alkaline, and 7 is neutral. It is the single most important factor in the soil that gardeners can control.

If the test results indicate a pH other than what you want, dolomitic lime can be added to lower acidity (raise the pH); powdered sulfur will increase acidity (lower the pH) for a short period of time.  Applications of lime or sulfur will need to be applied quarterly for the lifetime of the plant.

It is best to plant the right plant, in the right location taking into consideration the soil pH as well.

NOTE:  If you use well water for irrigation, you should have it tested for pH and possible salt intrusion. 


Amending soil should be done to entire beds, not just individual planting holes.  Exception:  Roses and Citrus or Edible Fruit Trees, need to be continually amended.  This is done by top dressing the soil periodically throughout the year with organic matter.  This could include worm castings, composted cow manure, coffee grinds or your own compost.


Vermiculite – Inorganic soil amendment.  Does not have any nutritional value.  Does add volume and air to soil and has moisture retention capabilities.


Perlite – Inorganic soil amendment.  Does not have any nutritional value.  Does add air and volume to soil and allows for healthy root growth. 


Black Know Composted Kow Manure – Provides moisture-holding capacity to sandy soils.  Holds water and nutrients in the plant's root system. Helps keep nutrients and water from leaching out of the soil.


Worm Castings – Provides microbes that help plants take up nutrients. Worm castings contain natural plant growth hormones that improve the plants' growth speed and development of a better root system.


Mushroom Compost – Supplies nutrients to plants and it increases the water-holding capacity of the soil.  It is best used as a top dressing periodically throughout the year on mature plants.  Its high salt content can be damaging to young seedlings or plants.


WATCH OUT! for pre-mixed soils. Look for where fertilizers and additives are derived. Sulfur-based products add acid to the soil. 

Plastic polymers added to the soil for water retention can cause the plant to get overwatered.  The plastic takes years to decompose and adds zero value to the soil or plant.  Fertilizing should be done separately with a plant-specific fertilizer.

Benefits of Amending Soil and Adding Organic Matter

  • Improves tilth, condition, and structure of the soil.
  • Improves the ability of soil to hold water.
  • Improves the ability of soil to hold nutrients.
  • Improves "buffering" capacity of soil; that is, keeps soil from "over-reacting".
  • Supports the soil's microbiological activity (or the life of the soil).
  • Contributes nutrients, both minor and major.
  • Releases nutrients slowly.
  • Acids arising from the decomposition of organic matter help to convert insoluble natural additives such as ground rock into plant-usable forms.
  • Helps vegetables survive stress and reduces the possibility of nematode damage.
  • Helps to dispose of organic waste products.

We hope these tips were helpful and serve as a step in the right direction when it comes to taking care of your plants and the soil they live in! Stop by Lindley's today for more tips, tricks, and tidbits on all things plants!


Note: Lindley’s does soil testing at no charge.  If you need a more detailed soil analysis call Quality Green Specialists in Deland. The University of Florida also has a more detailed soil test.

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