at Patuxent Nursery in Bowie, Maryland

Soil is the life source for plants in every lawn, garden, and landscape design. Your soil can help your plants thrive and flourish, or it could be the element that’s holding them back. Soil composition can change throughout the years, even between seasons, so it’s important to know how to rebalance your soil. 

There are three types of soil consistencies – clay soil, sandy soil, and loamy soil. Clay soil typically needs better porosity, aeration and drainage – it is too dense for roots. Sandy soil needs more holding capacity, as it loses nutrients too quickly. (Mixing sand and clay is a terrible idea- this will create cement and will not fix your problems. You need silt and organic material as well). 

Loamy soil is considered the healthiest soil – it has a balance of both retention and drainage as well as hosting lots of beneficial nutrients. A blend of materials called soil amendments are used to bring soils closer to this ideal loam makeup. 

Gardener pouring amendments into her soil mixture

When you use the right amendments for your garden soil, you can ensure that your soil is providing the perfect home for your garden. Soil amendments can either change bad soil drastically or fine-tune your soil in more delicate ways as needed. 

While fertilizers can add nutrients to your soil quickly, they are intended to be absorbed fairly quickly as well. Soil amendments, on the other hand, are any material meant to adjust your soil composition itself. The added materials provide nutrients to your plants over a longer period of time. This is why we recommend organic soil amendments as a first choice. 

Typically the goal for soil is to create a loamy, crumbly consistency full of both nutrient-rich organic matter and materials to promote drainage. You’ll want to either mix your amendments deep into the soil before planting or mix them in well around the dripline of your plants. It is best if it is mixed in very evenly.

You can add soil amendments on top of your soil, but they are meant to be incorporated into the soil. Watering your soil after adding amendments on top can help those amendments mix into the soil, especially for lawns where you do not want to disturb the grass. Mulch, on the other hand, is intended to stay on top of the soil and serve a different purpose. 

Compost ready to add to a garden

First, Determine What Your Soil Needs

If your soil has a clay composition (very small particles that glom together and reduce drainage), you can add chunky fir bark, pine fines  or gypsum to increase drainage. If your soil is too sandy and loses its water and nutrients too quickly, you can add peat moss, compost or vermiculite in order to increase retention just enough. 

You can also use a soil test or pH tester if you need to change the pH levels of your soil. Some plants prefer a lower pH, like tomatoes, while other plants such as kale thrive with a higher pH. Once you know whether or not your soil is acidic or alkaline you can then add lime to raise it or a soil acidifier to lower it.

To see all of the soil amendments we offer, be sure to come and visit our store in Bowie, MD.

Most of the soil amendments we offer can be broken up into three categories:

  • Small Scale Amendments, where a few cups will go a long way.
  • Large Scale Bagged Amendments, sold in bags of 1 cubic yard or 3 cubic yards.
  • Large Scale Bulk Amendments, sold by the cubic yard.

Soil Amendments for Subtle Changes

Common Small Scale Amendments We Often Carry Include:

  • Gypsum – A soft sulfite mineral and a great tool to break up clay soils and improve porosity
  • Lime or Sulphur – Usually used to adjust the pH balance of your soil, for plants that prefer acidic or alkaline soils
  • Bonemeal – Adds phosphorus to the soil
Gypsum Additive being mixed into soil
A Cow
  • Epsom Salts – when dosed correctly, can help boost nutrients such as magnesium into the soil
  • Bat Guano & Other Composted Biosolids – while fresh guano or manure can cause health issues if put directly in your garden, adding composted biosolids (that have been raised above a specific temperature over time to kill harmful bacteria) can be the best way to amend your soils for both soil makeup, water retention and nutrients
  • Vermiculite – this is commonly used in potting soils to retain moisture
  • Perlite – this is commonly used in potting soils to increase drainage.
  • Fir bark – this is great for loosening soil, adding drainage and airation, and providing organic nutrients as the bark breaks down over time.
Vermiculite Grains on a table

Shop Below For Some of the Large-Scale Bagged and Bulk Soil Amendments We Offer.

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, send us an email or come visit our nursery in Bowie, MD. We’re here to help you find which soil amendment will perfect your soil’s physical properties. 

Bagged Soil Amendments Available for Pickup or Delivery

Bulk Soil Amendments Available for Pickup or Delivery

Contact us for any of your Mulch, Soil & Gravel Questions by filling out the form below or stopping by.

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