Advice and Case Studies

Soil Matters

Gardening can be a frustrating and difficult activity, especially given the number of considerations you have to know about and negotiate.

One is never done learning about plants and all that surrounds them, while the weather and all its elements can be hard to cope with. All the various disorders affecting plants can lead to many disappointments and within this there are weeds, pests and all the different diseases that cause varying degrees of devastation and distortion.

Much is written about all of the normal problems, but one of the most irritating problems is made by man and I have encountered it again in recent times The issue is something that invariably occurs when new houses are built, as the developer looks to make savings via shortcuts. I am referring to what happens before the houses are built and the topsoil is stripped at the construction stage. This is the norm and enables all the construction and services to be installed, but thereafter only good developers consider the needs of the gardener.

What should happen is that the subsoil below where the topsoil lay must be broken up to reduce the compaction that causes future drainage problems if not attended to. Once the subsoil has been loosened up with a grubber or subsoiler, a good foot/30cm of quality topsoil should be spread over the area to restore to approximately the original condition of the site, if not better.

If this is not done properly and then fences erected around the gardens; there is no chance for mechanical relief of compaction thereafter.

Several times in recent weeks, I have encountered gardens on sites where the developer has short changed the house buyer by leaving thin; compacted and badly drained soils; resulting in gardening nightmares.

Where the water cannot penetrate the subsoil; the water table is just beneath the surface; leaving the garden a bog during wet weather. Shallow topsoils make it hard when planting large plants and trees.

In recent times football grounds have suffered similar issues, with the turf struggling on saturated surfaces and that is the same when growing anything on badly drained soils.

Just like the house itself; if not on a good foundation; the house will not be stable and it is a similar situation with soils and if badly drained; compacted and thin depth of top soil, plants cannot be expected to thrive.

I am not saying that all developers are guilty, but it would be reasonable to expect that when spending such vast sums of money on a house that the developer would consider the needs of the garden; especially as more people are getting back to gardening and spending quality time there.

Yes; there are lots of basic principles when gardening and although we cannot control the weather for instance; we can surely expect to begin with a decent soil which we can improve and ameliorate over time with organic matter.

I consider this issue to be as important as giant hedges.

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