Preparing the soil for planting

What season you are in dictates what you should be planting. However, many plants, especially potted plants, can be planted at any time of the year. Check the plant tag or with horticultural staff at your hardware or garden centre for local knowledge. What is currently for sale is a good tip on what to plant.

Generally, spring is thought of as the ideal planting season as the weather and soil are warm so plants can establish before the heat of summer hits. In cold regions, planting is often delayed until late spring, when the danger of frost is over. Autumn is also a good time as it gives the plant time to establish before winter, then burst into spring growth. In many regions, winter is the season for planting bare-rooted plants, and summer is the season of colourful annuals, fruit and vegies. In the tropics and subtropics, autumn, winter and spring are all popular planting times.

Before planting check the condition of the soil. If the soil is lacking nutrients, worm and microbial activity, or is dry, compacted or waterlogged then the plant may not thrive. Planting in healthy, fertile soil, should ensure strong and healthy growth.

Five simple tips for preparing the soil

  1. Before preparing an area for planting, ensure you have the right location for your plant (check the plant tag for details of its mature size and sun or shade needs). If there are potential problems, select another site. Ask yourself the following questions:
    1. Does the plant have enough room to grow?
    2. Is the position in the garden shady enough or too shaded?
    3. Will the plant be shaded by other plants, or suffer root competition?
    4. Is the plant too close to your house or another building? Plant roots can upset footing or get into sewerage and water pipes.
  2. Remove weeds, grass and debris – sticks and stones – from the planting site. Once the ground is bare, dig into the soil to help to aerate and open it up. Assess the soil condition to see how much work needs to be done before planting.
  3. Soil is defined by texture, structure and soil pH. Check out the guide to understanding soil or take a sample of your soil to your local hardware or garden centre. For a small fee, they test your soil and give you advice on how to improve it for planting.
  4. Generally, most soil types can be improved by adding well-rotted compost and manure into the soil, either homemade or in bags brought from hardware and garden centres. Look out for Seasol Super Compost or Seasol Garden Mix. For a no-dig option consider liquid Seasol Liquid Compost. Our garden soil is full of microorganisms such as worms, microbes, bacteria and fungi. These organisms make nutrients available to plants and bind the soil particles together to improve its structure, making it lose and fluffy, an ideal home for your plant to flourish.
  5. Besides healthy soil, plants also need moisture. Check it to see if the soil is moist and can absorb water. If the soil is dry and crusty then it may not be taking water in. Apply water to the soil. If it pools on top or runs off, it could be hydrophobic (repelling water). Apply a soil wetter such as Seasol Super Soil Wetter & Conditioner to help overcome this.

TIP: Leave the soil for as long as possible before planting – several weeks is ideal – to enable the organic material to go to work to improve your soil. Apply mulch to the soil surface to stop it drying out and to retain moisture and keep the temperature constant.