Healthy Landscapes: Soil Prep is the Key

They say that 90 percent of plant problems occur below ground. Because of that, we take the garden prep process seriously. I’m always interested in seeing how other landscape companies install their landscapes too. I’ve noticed a couple of different strategies from some of the local landscape companies located in Litchfield County. Some, do nothing other than come to your property, dig in the plants, mulch and call it a day. Others, will dig generous holes and amend each hole, usually with peat moss. At Designing Eden llc, we are firm believers of following the natural process that occurs in nature. In nature, without human intervention, leaves and needles fall to the ground and decompose over time. The upper layers of the soil profile are rich in organic matter. As each year’s layer decomposes, nutrients become available, acting as a natural fertilizer for the plants above.

Prior to installing a new landscape, we always spend time preparing the soil. What we do in this phase of the install will depend on each site’s existing conditions. We are always hoping to see a foot or more of exposed foundation. That will allow plenty of room for soil amendments. This is especially important in new construction where compaction runs rampant and a normal soil profile is non existent. It’s really hard to have a successful, sustainable landscape on a new construction site without a lot of soil preparation! With older houses, the soil usually has time to repair itself with freeze/thaw cycles, annual mulching and other organic debris which adds organic matter over the years. Also, way back when, topsoil wasn’t stripped off and sold, there was a lot less heavy equipment use so compaction wasn’t as much of an issue as it is today.

Our chosen sequence for a successful landscape is to remove the existing vegetation and then add as much compost as the structure will allow. The more the merrier! If the structure or some other circumstance does not allow us to built up the gardens with compost, we have no other choice but to dig down to create a sufficient enough growing media for a successful landscape. This is usually a last resort but this was the case in our current landscape installation project. The existing soil was horrific and the structure was placed low to the existing grade. We removed approximately 12″ of soil and brought in new soil that was much more plant friendly.

Removing existing soil
Installing a compost soil mix

When we had the opportunity, we scraped the rest of the space so we were able to place 5-6″ of topsoil throughout the lawn area too.

Formal Courtyard
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Richard Schipul
Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.


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