Monday, June 13, 2016

Amend That Soil!

Do you have the ideal soil for planting? Few of us do, and I certainly don't! Here's how I "amend" my soil in South Louisiana to grow beautiful flowers!

When I moved to South Louisiana, I was amazed by all the beautiful flowers, many of which bloom year-round. Having Palm Trees in my yard was very appealing, and there were several shrubs in front of our house, but I also wanted flowers.

When I tried planting flowers the next spring, however, it was a disaster! The soil that we have is called Blackjack Soil. It is ideal for growing sugarcane, but somewhat lacking when it comes to flowers. I really wasted my time planting that year, because most everything died. When the Blackjack Soil is wet, it is like black clay. When it is dry, it is hard, and "sets up", almost like cement. Also, I tried the weed barrier cloth, and those aggressive weeds grew through it like it wasn't there! In the past, I had also used lava rock in place of mulch, but that was a mistake, also. With the intense heat, the black lava rock seemed to "fry" the flowers. I ended up with a flowerbed of aggressive weeds, not a pretty sight!

The next spring, I first went to a local Nursery for professional advice before planting. The owner asked if I had "amended" the soil. Amend the soil? I wasn't really sure what he meant. In West Virginia, We didn't buy soil! We had rich soil, and we knew where in the mountains to get some more if we needed it. Occasionally, I would use a safe water-soluble plant food, but that was it! Evidently this was not the case in South Louisiana!

I bought the products that the owner of the Nursery suggested, followed his directions, and it worked! I had beautiful flowers again! 

Here's the recipe for the "Master Soil Mix"

In a large container, mix equal parts of:
  • peat moss 
  • top soil 
  • soil conditioner

Dig a hole with a diameter about 2-3 times that of your flower pot, and a few inches deeper than the pot. You may need a mattock or other heavy duty tool to dig in this soil! (I bent my garden tools and had very sore hands until I got my husband to help!)

Take most of the soil from the hole that you dug, and put the it in a container to save for future plantings. Mix some of the loose soil (in the ground) with some of the "Master Soil Mix". 

Add Bedding Plant Food (according to package directions).

Gently coax the bottom roots of the new plant apart, and plant in the hole. Fill in around the plant with the soil and "Master Soil Mix". Press down firmly, but not too hard!

Water, and mulch well.

I have tried this mix many times with great results. I'm an "Amend that Soil" Believer!

Other Planting Options

"Raised Beds" 

You can put heavy black plastic on top of the ground where you will build your flower bed. Use landscape timbers (at least 2-3 high) to enclose the flower bed. Fill with top soil, and use the "Master Soil Mix" to "amend" each hole that you dig to plant. It takes a lot of soil for Raised Beds, but it is definitely worth it!

Planting in Pots

Drill drainage holes in the bottom of your pot (2-4, depending on the size of your pot). Put a couple of inches of small rocks, broken pieces of brick or flowerpots, etc. in the bottom of the pot. Add some of the soil that you saved from previous pots. Add top soil, and mix it with the other soil. Add the "Master Soil Mix" to the top 1/3 of the pot, and mix lightly. Add Bedding Plant Food (according to package directions). Plant your flowers!

Ms. Nancy's Notes: 

  • If you want rocks or pebbles, you have to buy them in Louisiana! There are no rocks in the soil, bayous, etc.!
  • If you decide to use a "weed block" around your flowers, I have found that several layers of newspaper under the weed block works well. Cover with several inches of mulch.

Try this "Master Soil Mix"!


  1. Thanks, Joshua! I hope this post will help someone who may be having the same planting problems that I was.