Soil and Your New Plant

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

It’s important to determine the availability of moisture and nutrients in the soil for your new plants. Consider the terrain and soil type you have when picking out new plants to add to your garden. You don’t necessarily want to plant a shrub that requires mostly dry soil in a low point in your yard where water tends to collect. Likewise, a plant that grows best in wet soil may not do well planted atop a high spot in sandy soil that drains easily and doesn’t retain moisture.  

Dig around a little to analyze your soil. Do you notice that it is dark and moist, light and sandy, or is it squishy clay? Is the soil compacted, root bound or stony? Knowing the characteristics of your soil can help you make adjustments or choose plants that prefer those conditions.

Additionally, a soil test can help you identify the available nutrients and pH levels in your garden. Bloch’s Farm sells do-it-yourself kits, or you can request a soil test through the UW-Madison Extension office. Soil pH expresses the acidity or alkalinity of a sample using a scale of 0 to 14, with 7 representing a neutral reading. Typically, plants grow best when the soil has a pH of more than 6, which is slightly acidic and less than 7.5, which is slightly alkaline. In this range, plants are best able to access the essential nutrients needed for optimum growth.   

You have a few options once you know the attributes of your soil. First, you can match your new plants to the existing conditions. For instance, butterfly bush, rose of sharon, flowering quince, sedum, butterfly weed, and tickseed are a few plants that tolerate sandy soil. A few examples of plants that can tolerate clay soil are flowering currants, barberries, geraniums, hostas, and daylilies. Some plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, and blueberries prefer acidic soils, while lilacs, lavender, rosemary, and honeysuckle grow best in alkaline soils.   

 Second, a variety of adjustments can be made to the soil. Adding compost, peat moss, and healthy black dirt full of organic matter can make a world of difference to your plants. Even just working up compacted soils and adding water regularly will help. If you have heavy clay soils or low lying moist areas, consider building raised beds and filling them with rich topsoil. If you have sandy or clay soil, both will benefit from adding organic matter. To make pH adjustments, add acidic fertilizers or incorporate lime into the soil as needed. Your soil test results can also be used to add fertilizer with the essential nutrients that may be lacking in your garden.  

Need to add soil to your garden? Bloch’s Farm sells topsoil by the yard as well as in bags. We also have compost, peat moss, organic fertilizers and more to fulfill your gardening needs. 

Bloch’s Farm is open 7 days a week from 8 am to 6 pm. We have a huge selection of trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials! Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you! Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail with any questions. Don’t forget to visit our website online at and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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