Posts tagged soil test

Your gardening questions


Master Gardener Claire Smith answers three common gardening questions:


·         What’s the easiest way to keep weeds and grass from my flower bed?

Mulch!  It conserves moisture, adds nutrients, increases esthetic appeal and reduces the possibility of diseases by preventing water from splattering on leaves.  It’s affordable, easy to install, and readily available.  

Choices range from wood chips to sawdust, manure with sawdust, and straw to leaves to layers of newspapers to crushed rock.  Wood chips vary in composition and are purchased at local garden centers.   Sawdust should be spread thinly to prevent compacting.  Leaves are a good choice, especially if composted.  Manure or manure with sawdust might be found free from a local farmer.  While a great amendment, a word of caution, it may contain hay or straw with weed seeds.  This would be a do-it-yourself project, so plan to provide your own containers and shovel and be prepared for an odiferous ride home if you have an SUV.  Recycle your newspaper with 6-8 sheet deep layers. Crushed rock adds texture and color but removing it in the future may be difficult.

·         How can a person recondition or improve the soil in flower gardens?

Eliminate guesswork!  Perform a soil test now. It is difficult to improve the soil after you’ve commenced planting.  Call the Linn County Horticulture Hotline for information about obtaining a sample kit.  Add organic matter (compost, well-rotted manure or peat moss) to improve drainage in clay soil and water-holding capacity in sandy soil.  A rule of thumb is to add 2-4” into 6-12” of soil.  Watch for earthworms as one indication of healthy soil. They provide aeration and add fertilizer with their waste. 

·         How deep should you plant bulbs? 

Bulbs should generally be planted at a depth of two to three times the height of the bulb, i.e. a one inch bulb should be planted 2-3” deep.  Space bulbs 2-3 times their diameter apart.  Lightly tamp the soil to remove air pockets, then water thoroughly to settle the soil.   Always read planting labels 

Call the Linn County Horticulture Hotline at 319-447-0647 with your questions. 


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