What You Call “Dirt” Affects Every Aspect of Your Garden
If you’ve called the soil in your landscape beds “dirt,” you’ve been insulting this very important component of your yard! Soil is responsible for nourishing plants with nutrients and water and anchoring roots in the ground. But not all soil is healthy. If yours isn’t ideal, then your plants may not be as successful as they could be. Understanding soil quality and how to improve it is key to growing healthy gardens, landscapes, trees, and grass. Meadowlark Landscape & Design is here to explain the types of soil you may encounter on your property and suggest ways to make it better - for the health of your plants.
Types of Soil
Three main components make up soil: clay, sand, and silt. Depending on where you live in the Wichita area, you could have multiple kinds of soil on your property. If you want to ensure the plants you select for your gardens and flower beds will succeed in your yard, then you need to know what kind of soil you have. Our landscaping company can help you identify the soil type or types in your yard.
Particularly in eastern Kansas, we tend to see a lot of clay-type soils. Clay soil can be reddish or gray and tends to stick together in clumps. Fruit trees, hostas, and certain shrubs grow well in clay soil. It is possible to find clay soil in Wichita as well, but you’re also likely to find a few other kinds.
Loamy soil is common in Wichita landscapes, which includes all three soil components in equal amounts. This is great news, because loamy soil has excellent drainage and encourages the development of a healthy root system.
Also common in our area is silty soil, which retains moisture and nutrients. However, it can become a problem if it doesn’t drain properly.
Other soil types are peaty, chalky, and sandy, and these are less common in our part of the state. Sandy soil is crumbly and lower in nutrients; it also easily erodes. Peat soil, made of partially decomposed organic matter, is most common in wetlands and is rather acidic. Chalky soil is alkaline. While this is great for certain plants, it creates nutritional deficiencies in others.
Is Kansas’ Official State Soil in Your Wichita, KS Landscaping?
Although the state of Kansas has more than 300 different soil types, its recognized state soil is Harney silt loam, a well-draining, deep soil present on flat ridges and side slopes. The soil is dark grayish brown for the first 12 inches of depth, before it transitions into subsoil, which is a brown, calcareous silty clay loam. Harney silt loam formed under prairie grasslands and covers more than four million acres in Kansas. It gets its name from the Pawnee word “harahey,” meaning “people.”
Soil Testing in Kansas
If you want to learn more about the qualities of the soil you have on your property, Kansas residents can utilize the soil testing lab at Kansas State University. Available tests include pH, phosphorus, potassium, nitrate, and organic matter. It’s up to you, the homeowner, to submit soil from around your landscape for testing, following the K-State Extension Office’s instructions. Alternatively, you can request a soil test from Meadowlark Landscape & Design; we’ll handle every step for you to learn more about your soil, the nutrients it is or isn’t providing your plants, and what you can do to make it healthier. This is called a soil amendment.
Kinds of Soil Amendments
Soil amendments change your soil’s properties to help nourish your plants and encourage growth. After you confirm your soil type and its nutrient composition, you can choose the right amendment for your Wichita, KS landscape. You can opt for homemade soil amendments, like from your own compost bin, or use premade amendments with a guaranteed nutrient analysis. Common soil amendments include:
EPA Class A “Exceptional Quality” Biosolids (also known as composted sewer sludge)
Homemade or purchased compost, or “compost tea,” made by steeping compost in a bucket of water, then straining and using it to water plants.
Cover crops that store carbon in the soil
Epsom salt or gypsum, to add magnesium and sulfur
Manure from poultry, sheep, goats, rabbits, cows, or horses - but never from dogs or cats
Mushroom soil (spent soil from mushroom farming)
Pine bark fines
Worm castings from red wigglers
Keep in mind that soil amendments made from manure of any kind can pose a human health risk if not handled and used correctly. Work with a professional landscaping company to mitigate that risk if your yard requires nutrients from manure.
Does Your Property Need Landscaping Services to Look and Perform Its Best?
Most people have no idea the type of soil under their lawns, nor what that soil needs to ensure every plant, from each blade of zoysia grass to every tree, is as healthy as possible. If you’re not sure what your lawn and garden need, rely on the professionals at Meadowlark Landscape & Design. Our landscaping company will evaluate your current yard and help you identify the landscaping services we offer that will help you reach your curb appeal goals. To get started, send us a message on our website, or call us at (316) 880-0227.