Your garden soil might seem unassuming and unimportant, but it’s the bedrock of your gardening efforts. Don’t feel stuck with the type of soil you’ve got, there’s lots you can do to improve it. Digging and hoeing, or even walking on the soil in wet conditions may affect drainage and plant health as roots die through lack of oxygen. Start by assessing your soil. There are six main types: chalky, clay, loamy, peaty, sandy and silt. To test what type of soil you have, you need to look at it and feel it.
If your soil runs through your fingers with ease and feels grainy to the touch it’s probably got a high sand content, whilst soils that can be rolled to form a firm ball will contain finer silt particles. To open up the structure of clay soils, dig in aggregate or gypsum clay breaker and use generous amounts of organic matter. Improving the structure like this allows oxygen to circulate and improves drainage, which is essential for soil bacteria and for the respiration of plant roots. For peaty soil, you’ll have to provide better drainage to make peaty soil hospitable to a wide variety of plants. That is an important first step because most garden plants do not like "wet feet." Once you have accomplished that, you can work on raising the pH level over time by applying garden lime.
When water penetrates the soil, whilst some of the moisture is retained between the soil granules, in well-drained soils the surplus leaches through the subsoil until it reaches the ‘water table’—which can be bedrock or a seam of clay. If the water table is quite near to the surface the soil quickly becomes waterlogged and roots become restricted. In this case, you will need to break the hardpan or build raised beds and fill with imported ‘crumbly’ loamy soil, which retains water, but drains easily.
During the changing seasons, plants interact with the water held in the soil differently, but an adequate water supply must always be available. For instance, in dry weather you’ll need to give plants a good dousing with your YOYO by FITT hosepipe but, in winter, to prevent plants being battered or the soil becoming waterlogged, only give plants a gentle shower. Only dense foliage and established plants can cope with a deluge. YOYO by FITT has a premium multiple spray gun to give a monitored level of control when watering. As it doesn’t kink, you can rely on it to deliver the right amount to just where it is needed. During April to September, it’s important to water the soil to a depth of 30cm otherwise the moisture will merely evaporate from the surface.
Keep tabs on your soil now and you will find it will work to your advantage later—getting to grips with soil is the best way to ensure plants prosper.