Gardening: Choose your soil for your garden wisely

Thinking of purchasing soil, or compost for the garden? Take time to look at various bags or piles for sale before making a purchase. Once soil is delivered, it is just about impossible to return.

Both top soil and compost can be purchased in bulk by the cubic yard or by the bag. For large amounts is cost effective to purchase in bulk. Don’t have a truck? Don’t worry many places deliver in cubic yard bags.

By definition, top soil should be soil removed for the top layer of the ground without any additives. Screened top soil means that they have taken the time to remove all the roots, clumps and rocks. Cost and quality between sellers will vary.

Before purchasing top soil go look at the soil. Dig deep into the soil in a number of places checking to see if it consistent in texture and color throughout. Do not purchase the soil if it contains rocks, wood chunks, strips or lumps of clay or garbage.

A silt or loam soil will be loose and fluffy. Sandy soil feels gritty when rubbed together. Clay slides between the fingers when wet. Do not be surprised when the soil is a combination of two or more types of soil.

Inquire where the soil originated and how long it has been sitting at that location. Soil that was taken from a working filed or pasture may have chemical residue. Soil that sits in a pile, uncovered will contain weed seeds. Soil harvested from a working filed or pasture may contain chemical residue.

Compost, decomposed organic matter is by law, considered a soil additive as opposed to a fertilizer. It does not have to be registered but still has to meet certain criteria to be sold. The product name should carry the main material that was used in the compost. An example being a product that is labeled Cattle Manure must contain at least 60% manure and the rest can be decomposed carbon, plant products.

Compost, is to be sold by weight. The package or bill of sale, should contain the name and address of the company, minimum organic matter and maximum moisture holding capacity. It should also contain the directions for use. Companies and farmers that sell less than 100 tons a year small are exempt from these rules.

By, law compost that is sold cannot contain animal byproducts that can be linked to BSE or human waste. These two stipulations are to protect the food chain from deadly diseases.

If compost is mixed with other ingredients after the composting process is complete, it is then considered a fertilizer and must be licensed as such. Likewise if the product claims to add nutrients to the soil it is considered a fertilizer and a nutrient analysis must be either on the container or with the bill or receipt. .

Follow the same rules when purchasing compost as with top soil; look before purchasing. A well composted product should be consistent in shape and texture. It should not contain lumps, twigs, garbage or recognizable bits. It should smell like soil without any rotting odor.

When purchasing compost from a producer, that does not have labeling in place, ask about the animal feed. Was the hay sprayed? If so which chemicals were used? Do not be surprised if the answer is “I don’t know”. Know that the hay animals eat can contain broadleaf inhibiting chemicals such as Aminopyralid and Picloram. The chemicals pass through animals digestive systems and do not break down in the composting process and will be active in the compost for a number of years. Bottom line, The compost will stop broadleaf seeds from germinating

Care and due diligence when adding materials to the garden is a must as once it is mixed in, it is hard to remove.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

Just Posted

City spending $10M on overpass that won’t be need for a decade

An impassioned Red Deer city councillor failed to sway his colleagues from… Continue reading

Red Deer Airport looks to buy new administration building

Airport has asked to borrow $240,000 from Red Deer County for office purchase

Red Deer ranked 10th most dangerous place in Canada

Red Deer is the 10th most dangerous place in Canada, rankings by… Continue reading

Grain shippers worried about strike as feds urge CN and union to continue talks

MONTREAL — Grain shippers are concerned about the impact of a strike… Continue reading

A lesson in excellence and success

Mary Kemmis, president of the Prairie Division of Black Press Media, and… Continue reading

Central Albertans help families during holidays with Christmas Wish Breakfast

It takes a community to help a community. And Sunday morning at… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Nov. 19 The Mountview Sunnybrook Community Association will hold its AGM at… Continue reading

Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt reprise `90s hit `Mad About You’

LOS ANGELES — Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt thought long and hard… Continue reading

Federal Court orders Canada’s ISPs to block TV piracy website for first time

TORONTO — A Federal Court is ordering Canada’s internet service providers to… Continue reading

University of Calgary to slash payroll after post-secondary funding cuts

The government is also cutting all funding for the Infrastructure Maintenance Program

Opinion: Climbing cost of drinking water a drain on low-income earners

Environmentalists and water economists have long argued Canadian households have not conserved… Continue reading

U.S. support for Israeli settlements is no surprise

As British newspaper magnate Viscount Northcliffe said: “When a dog bites a… Continue reading

Opinion: The buck stops with Red Deer city council

Red Deer city council has taken measures to distance itself from decisions… Continue reading

Denis Shapovalov, Vasek Pospisil give Canada Davis Cup win over favoured Italy

MADRID — Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil kept rolling on Monday, notching… Continue reading

Most Read