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Flower beds dirt

Linda Asked

I need to buy a large amount of dirt for a flower bed and would like to know brands that is best and mixtures?

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The Gardener’s Answer

Hi, Linda: As the saying goes, “A healthy garden begins with healthy soil.” Preparing a new flower bed is exciting and labor intensive. The steps that you take before adding plant material will help your flower garden be a success.

Healthy soil is rich with essential nutrients and allows for optimal air, water, and nutrient movement. An ideal flower garden has a pH of 6.0-6.5.Compact clay soil that is found in Kentucky does not allow for good drainage and in some cases needs to be amended. This is especially true when gardening around  new construction. That being said, soils are extremely variable and a soil test will help determine the needs in your garden.

The Graves County Cooperative Extension Service will be a great resource for you. I just spoke with them and as of today, they are still able to send off soil tests to University of Kentucky. The cost is $7.00 and the results will give specific recommendations in terms of improving essential nutrients, pH and organic matter in your garden. You can speak directly with an agent by calling (270) 247-2334. They may also be able to give local recommendations for purchasing soil. Depending on how much you need, it might be more economical to purchase in bulk and have a truckload delivered. Assuming that you are not planting in a raised bed, you will need to eliminate the existing weeds and remove all rocks and other debris. Add additional top soil if needed and compost. The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture recommends incorporating 2 inches of compost, 8 inches deep into the soil. If a soil test is not done then add 1 to 2 pounds of  5-10-5 or 5-10-10 (N-P-K) per 100 square foot of garden bed. There are a lot of great brands that sell garden soil and amendments. FoxFarm and Barky Beaver are two of my favorite.

Available sunlight, soil condition and/or space limitations should all be taken into account. How many hours of sunlight does the space receive? 6 or more hours of direct sunlight is considered full sun. 3-5 hours is considered part sun and anything less than 3 is considered shade. Once you know the soil is good for planting and sun exposure you can select plants and start growing your garden. Each plant has its own growth habit, mature size, preferred growing conditions and disease resistance. Choosing plants that thrive in the conditions that you can provide will be an important step to growing a healthy, long-lived garden. Remember to choose plants that bloom at different times, have different colored foliage and mature to different heights. This will add texture, layers and color throughout the year. After planting, you can add a 2-3 inch layer of mulch to help keep the moisture in and the weeds down.

I hope this is helpful.

Angie Oakley

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