Soil is the ground level of your garden, and just like the foundations of a house, it should be healthy and strong before you begin building a garden on top of it.
The Melbourne area is home to a variety of naturally occurring soils, many of which are unsuitable for growing plants. However, with a bit of care and work, you can create an ideal growing environment in your garden.
All Green Nursery & Garden is dedicated to bringing you handy and accurate advice on your soil. Visit us in-store for more information.
What is soil?
Soil is so much more than dirt. It's a composite of water, air, organic matter, and minerals that is the basis for organic life on our planet. Soil is formed by cycling geological and biological phenomena, working together to produce the nutrient-filled basis of your garden:
- Plants, animals, and microorganisms die and decompose, releasing important nutrients.
- Rocks and dirt grind against each other to help other elements break down.
- The soil captures water and redistributes it to plants on the surface.
Most importantly, garden soil and top soil is the foundation of your garden. Good quality soil will make for a far more viable garden, no matter what you are growing. On the other hand, poor soil quality will require far more maintenance, watering, and feeding, and can often result in dying plants.
What kinds of soil are out there?
There are four distinct classifications of soil, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.
- Sandy soils aren't great at retaining moisture, and lack nutrients. Sands are most adept at growing native coastal plants, but can provide much needed structure to more dense soils.
- Loam is a combination of sand, silt, and clay. Loamy soil is the best kind of soil for growing most kinds of plants, including Australian natives.
- Clays are the densest and heaviest of the soils. Although they are incredibly rich in nutrients, they are prone to drying out, and can be less than pliable in certain months of the year.
Naturally occurring soils are a combination of these elements, with different areas yielding different compositions.
[feature_link]You can find specific information around Melbourne's soil types at Agriculture Victoria.[/feature_link]
What about soils in Melbourne?
Like the rest of Australia, Melbourne isn't close to active volcanoes. On the surface, this may sound like a positive. However, it also indicates that we have very little geological movement. Our soils are rarely refreshed, and consist mainly of a thin layer of top soil above deeper geological layers.
- In Melbourne north east, there's loamy grey soils full of clay. These soils are poor in plant nutrients and humus. Fertilisers or manures should be applied regularly and organic matter dug into the topsoil.
- In the north west, it's more common to find shallow-dark and reddish-brown heavy clay soils, with a thin loamy topsoil. They benefit from the addition of organic matter. Gypsum can be used to improve soil structure.
- Towards the mouth of the Yarra, you'll find heavier volcanic soils abundant with natives.
- In coastal areas, dark grey sands mix with loam and clay. This is where a lot of early market gardens and farms were originally seeded.
- Around the Mornington Peninsula and Dandenong ranges, there's damp, loamy, nutrient-rich soil, perfect for growing grapes.
[content_aside]If you'd like to know what kind of soil your home or job site contains naturally, there are many resources available to you.
- You can obtain a soil map from VicWater
- Consult the Victoria Government's Native Vegetation Information Management resources.[/content_aside]
Melbourne's soils are old, and often lack the nutrient and water retention benefits required to make a viable garden. If you've started a brand new garden, you'll want to remove the top soil, and start creating a better foundation.
How can I get better soil?
[tip_box]For expert advice on how to best prepare your soil for planting, visit All Green at Hoppers Crossing. Our onsite horticulturists will tell you everything you need to know.[/tip_box]
Creating a new soil environment is an important step towards having a flourishing garden. However, every garden will require different steps, depending on the biological composition of your existing soil.
Here's where you can begin.
- Test your soil with a soil testing kit and pH meter.
- Test the texture of your soil with a simple Mason Jar Soil Test.
- Note your results, then visit us at All Green.
Our garden experts will be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to make your garden viable. We will also direct you to the best garden soil and top soil for what you want to achieve. Finally, we can advise you on fertilisers and mulches to aid your garden after planting.
How can I get the best out of my new soil?
Tending to your soil doesn't have to be a chore. With a bit of carefully planning and attention to detail, you'll be supporting new life in no time.
Create compost: Vegetative decomposition is an imperative process to introduce new minerals and organic material to your garden. You need a balance of green and brown waste.
[feature_link]If you'd like to learn more about the proper methods of composting, you can view our step by step guide.[/feature_link]
More mulch: Your soil needs protection from the elements just like you do. Mulching mimics nature's own protective mechanisms in autumn, and offers great ground cover.
Plant plenty: Plants help soil retain structure, and roots promote greater mobility of water, food, and air to other parts of your garden.
Water well: Keep your top soil adequately watered, no matter what time of year it is. It's essential that you do this to maintain fertility. Gardens and plants vary widely in their water needs. Make sure that the soil is moist to at least 15 to 20 cm deep.. Deep watering encourages deeper and stronger root growth.