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Proper Soil Conditions for Plants

Telescopic Hedge Shear
Telescopic Hedge Shear


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Soil helps to hold the plant upright, supplies the plant its food, supplies the plant its water, and supplies the plant's root with air. Rich and fertile soil is required in order to encourage healthy plant growth. Ideally, your soil should have a mixture of different-sized particles and organic matter. Beneficial micro-organisms help to break organic matter into nutrient-rich soil. If your garden does not have rich and fertile soil, you may have to supplement it with additives.

Soils with a significant amount of clay retain alot of moisture, so they take less watering in the summertime. However, the clay particles are so tiny and close together that there is little air circulation. You may want to add some compost to the soil to help break up the clay so that the soil's aeration will improve.

Sandy soils contain large rock particles. The particles are far apart, so aeration is not a problem. However, water will pass right through these particles, which can both leach the nutrients away from the plant and cause the plant to dry out. Frequent waterings may be required in dry climates, whereas in rainy climates, additional liquid fertilizers (see Soil Fertilizer section below) will be needed to ensure a proper supply of nutrients.

Soil Nutrient Levels

Soil tests reveal the nutrient levels in your soil, while providing you with pH and organic content. Call your local Cooperative Extension Service to get a soil-testing kit. Here are some generic rules for soil composition levels:

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In order to make up for nutrient deficiencies, to follow are some suggested sources of required plant nutrients.

Bat guano, blood meal, chicken manure, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion, kelp meal, composted livestock manure
Bonemeal, rock phosphate, super phosphate
Granite meal, greensand, seabird guano, shrimp shell meal, sulfate of potash, wood ashes
Bonemeal, chelated calcium, eggshells, limestone, oyster shells, wood ashes
Borax, chelated boron, manure
Chelated copper
Chelated magnesium, dolomitic limestone, Epsom salts
Iron sulfate, sulfur, zinc sulfate
Chelated zinc, zinc sulfate
Chelated iron, iron sulfate

Soil Fertilizers

Ergonomic 'Wiser' Telescopic Hoe/Cultivator
Ergonomic 'Wiser' Telescopic Hoe/Cultivator


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Depending on the outcome of your soil tests, you may need to add packaged fertilizers in addition to mulch and compost. Always used packaged fertilizers according to the directions provided. Fertilizers can be applied in various forumulates according tonitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) levels. For example (5,5,5) would imply a balanced formulation of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Lawn food is high in nitrogen, whereas bloomer fertilizers for flowers and fruit are proportionally lower in nigrogen and higher in phosphorus and potassium. Formulations for roses, vegatables, tomatoes, and holly trees have special attributes that are matched to the plants. Slow or time-release fertilizers release nutrients in a controlled manner through waterings. They help to keep plants producing all season long. Liquid or soluble fertilizers will be able to resach the roots immediately for an instant boost, but must be reapplied regularly.

Soil for Potted Plants

Container plants depend completely on the nutrients in the garden planter for survival. Thus, it is important the correct soil is selected for the type of plant, climate, and sun exposure. For most plants, a commercial mix can be obtained for potted plants. If it has not been formulated with additiona fertilizer, add a time-release fertlizer according to packaged directions.