How Soil Works

Nature’s plan is to build up the humus year after year and this can only be done by organic matter. There is need to replace and return that which has been taken out. The Chinese, who are the best gardeners, collect, ‘use’, and return to the soil, every possible kind of waste, vegetable, animal and human. In over 4000 years of intensive cultivation they still support more human beings per hectare than any other country in the world! On the other hand in areas like the Middle West of the U.S.A. And the Regina Plain of Canada, where the Wheel of Life has not been recognized, tens of thousands of hectares which once grew heavy crops are now useless, or practically so.

Every flower crop grown reduces the organic content of the ground. Every piece of work done helps to break down the humus. The value of the soil in your garden, therefore, is not the mica particles or grains of sand. It lies in the humus that the soil contains. Humus makes all the difference to successful gardening. Have plenty of humus present and the soil is in good tilth. Humus is the organic colloid of the soil. It can store water, it can store plant foods, it can help to keep the soil open. It can help to ensure the right aeration. It will give ideal insulation against heat and cold.

Using Compost

Garden owners proposing to dig their land shallowly in preparation for flower growing, should realize the importance of adding ample quantities of organic matter before they start. Composted farmyard manure, fine wool shoddy, properly composted vegetable refuse, or hop manure should be added at the rate of one good barrow-load to 10 m2 (12 sq yds) and in addition into the top 25 or 50 mm (1 or 2 in) of soil finely divided sedge peat, non-acid in character should be raked in at about half a bucketful (9 litres) per square metre (2 gallons per sq yd). This organic matter in the top few millimetres of soil gives the little roots a good start and so sends them on to find the organic matter below.

It is when the organic content of the soil has been helped in this way, that the gardener dares to add plant foods of an organic origin. These are usually applied on the surface of the ground and raked in. Fertilizers with an organic base are particularly useful. Fish Manure may be applied at 105 to 140 g/m2 (3 oz to 4 oz per sq yd), or a meat and bone meal or even hoof and horn meal mixed with equal quantities of wood ashes may be used at a similar rate. These plant foods can be supplied not only when the flower garden is first made but every season very early in the spring. A good dried poultry manure to which a little potash has been added is another fertilizer that is very useful when applied at this time.

Minimum Digging

Flower growers must realize that proper soil treatment is the first essential to success. The millions and millions of soil bacteria that live in the ground to help the gardener, much appreciate little or no digging. It enables them to work better, for they need conditions which are natural. So do give them what they need.


Lime should be regarded as an essential except in very definite cases where acidity is demanded, e.g. the heaths and heathers, rhododendrons and azaleas.

Lime not only prevents soil from being acid but it ‘sweetens’ it, as well as playing its part as a plant food. It improves the texture and workability of heavy soils. It helps to release other plant foods, and it decomposes organic compounds in the soil so that they can be used as plant food also.

Generally speaking it should be applied at about 245 g/m2 (7 oz per sq yd). It should not be dug in, as it washes down into the soil very quickly. It should be sprinkled on the surface of the ground after the digging and manuring has been done. Do not mix lime with organic fertilizers. There are three main types of lime: Quicklime, sometimes sold as Buxton Lime or Lump Lime, which has to , be slaked down on the soil; Chalk or Limestone, often sold as Ground Limestone, only half as valuable as quicklime; and Hydrated Lime, which is perhaps the most convenient j to handle and is therefore most usually used by gardeners. The quantity of lime mentioned previously i.e. 245 g/m2 (7 oz per sq yd), refers to hydrated lime.

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