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By Jane Ying, Master Gardener in Training, SCMG

Ready to plant a dream garden in your new yard – Not So Fast! 

Many of us who have recently moved into newly constructed houses can’t wait to create our beautiful gardens. BUT, before rushing to purchase plants, we need to look after the most important element for healthy plant growth – the SOIL. 

Gardening in a newly constructed yard is actually harder than an established yard due to the soil problems: 

  • During construction, the topsoil will be scraped away. Unfortunately, this is the layer of soil with the most nutrients and microbes that plants need.  
  • The fill dirt that contractors bring in is likely subsoil, which has much less microorganisms, organic matter and nutrients to support plant growth. 
  • To make matters worse, the soil in your new yard is compacted by heavy construction equipment. Compacted soil is detrimental to plants as it has less air and water within, making it difficult for roots to grow, and the plants will be more susceptible to heat and drought conditions.   

To fix the soil problems: 

1.) Choose the right design to avoid compacting soil  

The design of your new flower or vegetable bed should allow for easy access to the plants without stepping onto the soil. This can be done by planting in a raised bed, a free-standing bed with access from all sides, or a bed that is no wider than 4 feet.  


2.) Add Organic Matter  

 Regardless of what type of soil you have, organic matter will improve soil physical properties including water retention, drainage, aeration, and soil structure. Organic matter also provides nitrogen and other essential nutrients (e.g. phosphorus and potassium) that plants need. In addition, the soil organisms such as fungi, bacteria and nematodes in organic matter make nutrients more accessible to plants 

For home gardeners, the easiest way to improve soil quality is by adding organic matter or compost to soil.  

  • Both plant compost and composted manure are good for amending soil quality and are widely available. Some municipalities provide free plant compost.  
  • For flowers and vegetables – incorporate 1 to 2 inches of compost 6 to 8 inches deep
  • For trees and shrubs – incorporate 4 inches of compost 12 inches deep 
  • Add compost to soil regularly to maintain good soil quality 


 The bottom line – If good soil is important for any gardening it is even more important for your newly constructed yards.