As we move into our landscapes, whether they were a corn field the previous year or have been growing turf and trees for 50 years, there are often adjustments we need to make to the soils to make them more ideal for ornamental plants. Each particular species has its own requirements for optimum growth and vigor. To the extent that we can meet our plant's needs, the greater our chance of having a wonderful landscape.

The substance we add to "amend" and improve our soils tend to fall into three categories: Chemical - Organic - Inorganic Amendments

Amendment Uses Comments

Perlite Work into heavy soils to improve drainage and  aeration and reduce compaction Expensive: lasts a long time best for planters  lightweight
Sand (coarse) Same as perlite Less expensive than perlite but required in large quantities for substantial improvement of clay - heavy weight - Must be coarse sand and not fine textured sand.
Topsoil (loam) Work into very sandy soils to improve water and nutrient holding Inexpensive but heavy may be contaminated with weed seed, nematodes, fungi and other undesireable organisms or chemical compounds. Know the source!
Vermiculite Improves water and nutrient holding in sandy soils Expensive lightweight if soil is worked frequently, the structure of the vermiculite will be damaged, reducing its effectiveness.
Scoria (lava rock, cinder rock) Same as perlite Less expensive than perlite but a bit heavier in weight.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

 

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