Landscaping projects are often expensive due to the size and volume of the plants required. It is also a major time investment. It is essential that a landscape's soil is prepared for new plants. Checking the condition of the soil, increasing its fertility and improving the soil's physical condition will improve plant growth and health.
Proper soil drainage is required by most landscape plants. Soil that does not hold enough water or drains it too quickly requires amending to keep the plants in the soil healthy. Texas A & M recommends digging a hole 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 2 feet deep. Fill it 1/2 full with water and observe how long it takes to drain. A hole that drains in less than 15 minutes is draining too quickly. Between 15 and 30 minutes, the soil drains properly. More than 30 minutes, and the soil has poor drainage.
Improving Soil Properties
According to Colorado State University, good soil takes several years to develop. The University of Missouri Extension recommends adding 1 to 3 inches of peat, compost or well-rotted manure to the soil and tilling it to a depth of 6 inches. Every year check drainage of the soil. To avoid waiting several years for the soil to improve, select plants that will grow in the existing soil conditions.
Raised beds may be used in the landscape when soil conditions cannot be improved without great expense. Beds are constructed from brick or other rot-resistant materials and filled with healthy soil. Low mounds of soil placed on top of the existing soil graded into a small hill is another affordable option for improving soil.
Large slopes in the lawn will increase water waste through quick evaporation and runoff. Steep slopes in the south and southwest exposures, says Colorado State University, are the most likely to have significant water loss. Planting of a drought- resistant ground cover plant will reduce runoff, as will trees. It is also possible to level larger slopes, but this is often expensive and very time consuming.
Tests of the pH level determine the acidity or alkalinity of your landscape. Take several soil samples throughout the landscape using a pH testing kit and send the soil samples to a local university extension service. Plants will grow best in their recommended pH levels, so check the landscape plants you wish to grow against the pH test and fertilize appropriately to change the pH to the desired level.