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It’s easy to lament our Sandy soils here in Western Australia.
If you’re living close to the coast here in WA, chances are, you’re on the Swan Coastal Plain. A stretch of sandy, gutless soil that dominates the area from the foothills of the Darling Scarp to the sea and extends from Quindalup to North of Perth. While it’s great living so close to the beach, we’re on some of the most infertile soils in the world! To top that off, the area where you’re living in has most likely been cleared of any native soil along with the natural bush, with yellow, builder’s sand used to create a building pad. These infertile sandy soils are often hydrophobic – water runs right off the top. Doesn’t even penetrate. If it does go through, it’ll often slip straight through sand channels. A complete waste of water.
While it may sound like all doom and gloom, please take heart. Let’s put things into perspective. There are so many good things about gardening on the Swan Coastal Plain. Think about all of the glorious sunshine we get here! We have around 9 months of the year for plants to actively grow. And native plants are actively growing in Winter time. So all year, there is something happening in the garden and you can certainly build a garden for year round interest. (contrast this to other places in the world where it snows! )
Sand is easy to dig
Spare a thought for those further inland who have hard clay or even rock to deal with. Now that we’re going to show you how to amend it, that sandy soil aint looking so bad now…Check this picture out. We may be getting a bit carried away here with this close up of our blend of soil improver, but read on. What you see is a blend of compost, clay, rock dust and zeolite.
The best type of soil to plant into is a loamy soil that is free draining, while at the same time holds onto water and nutrient so that plants can regulate their nutrient uptake. Soil needs to be alive with healthy micro-organisms and have a good Cationic Exchange Capacity (CEC) which is the ability to hold onto and chemically bind nutrients like phosphates and nitrates for plants to use - rather than being leached away. Good soil also stops becoming hydrophobic.
Here’s How to Build your soil profile
We use a well composted, quality soil conditioner that we keep in a big pile here at the nursery. This soil conditioner adds humus (which is composted organic matter) and is made through the composting process of soil micro-organisms that break it all down. Plants and microbes have a symbiotic relationship, they get along really well – plants give microbes their sugar fix, while the microbes break down nutrients so they can be delivered to plants. Soil Organics/compost also add to the CEC of your soil.
Plants love clay. In sandy soil, it fills the gaps between sand, making it less porous, while still allowing oxygen to get to the root zone. (your beneficial microbes need oxygen) It also has good water and nutrient holding abilities. Soils with more clay, have a greater CEC. (If you’re in mostly clay soils, this is great! Your plants will love it, although, you already know that what you need to work on is drainage, which is another topic…)
This is the superhero of the soil structure. Over 80 minerals are directly available for plants to take up. Holds water, has a high CEC, and is readily available for the plants to take up
Your plants will be healthier with the addition of zeolite, which will improve the efficiency of any fertilizer you add, retains water and reduces loss of nutrient. Zeolite is a natural mineral that is very porous – it traps and stores nutrients ready for use by plants.
The best mulch to retain water is the kind that is large and irregular in shape. Avoid the finer, sawdusty type mulches as they actually wick water out of the garden beds. Add Mulch regularly, as this will contribute to the organic matter that you need to top up a couple of times a year. Make sure you use mulch for the warmer months, you don’t want your beautiful soil drying out and killing off your beneficial microbes! (remember they’re needed to keep plants well fed)
What you want to achieve is soil that holds onto nutrient and water, it’ll be cheaper for you – you will use less water and fertilizer which will decrease your environmental impact via unnecessary nutrients leaching into waterways. And of course, you’ll have a beautiful, healthy garden.
If you build your garden soil this way, you can grow a wide variety of plants with much success. Pests and diseases are also kept at a minimum this way. Plants are healthier and just look better. It’s a great base for your garden.
We have these soil amendments – Rock Dust, Clay and Soil Conditioner as well as a good irregular shaped Bush Mulch available separately in piles by the tractor scoop for $35. Bring your trailer or a ute.