How to Prepare the Soil in the Palm Beach Landscape
Soils vary in the Palm Beach landscape, but sand predominates. The plants I use have been tested for years in the Palm Beach sand with no soil preparation. When I first began designing, I recommended peat moss and compost. I specified that about one inch of each be tilled into the soil. At the end of two years, I compared the gardens with and without this soil preparation and saw no difference. A soil scientist told me that additives put on top of sand quickly wash through the soil. He recommended organic mulch because it its constantly breaking down and sending valuable organic matter into the soil, just like leaves in a natural forest. Organic mulch, with a slow-release fertilizer containing minor elements, applied twice a year, works as well as any soil preparation I have seen in good, native sand. So the answer to the question of how to prepare the soil in the Palm Beach landscape is simple: just smooth it out and plant!
There are two exceptions to that rule. First, I frequently add potting soil – just a few inches on top of the existing soil – prior to planting annuals (seasonal flowers). Second, I occasionally recommend a tree that is not well-adapted to the Palm Beach sand, like a tibouchina tree, if a client is REALLY crazy about it. In this case, dig the hole about twice the size of the root ball and backfill the hole with good potting soil. The roots of the tree will eventually grow out of the potting soil and into the existing sand, but at least you have a chance of enjoying your tree for a few years!
Many new homes are built on fill soil that is very poor. The biggest problem I have run into is soil with a high percentage of shell that is compacted with steam rollers. The garden has the hardness of pavement, and the drainage is very poor. When you walk on the grass after a rain, you hear a squishing sound. Most plants do not do well in soil that doesn’t drain well. It is easy to tell neighborhoods with poor soil because many of the plants look sick. Luckily, I haven’t run into this problem yet in the Palm Beach landscape. I’ve seen plenty of it in Parkland and Weston, in Broward county. If you run into this problem at your house, contact local experts from your county extension service about how to handle these poor soils. Soil test labs are also very helpful.
In western areas of the Palm Beach landscape, I have run into shells in the soil. This soil is poor, but it will support healthy plants provided they grow well in sand and the soil drains well. This soil requires more fertilizer and organic mulch than healthier sands.
Pamela Crawford designs gardens in Palm Beach County, Florida. This video is appropriate throughout Pamela’s service area, including Boca Raton landscapes, town of Palm Beach landscapes, Palm Beach Gardens landscapes, Jupiter landscapes, and Wellington landscapes.
This article is taken from:
“Easy Gardens for South Florida” by Pamela Crawford. © 2001 Color Garden Inc.
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