Forum home Problem solving

How do I improve dry, dusty soil?

I’m a newbie gardener and have just taken up some turf to make a new flowerbed. The soil under the grass is quite dusty and dry, how should I improve this to make it suitable for planting shrubs and flower seeds? 

I have also removed a strip of thick gravel put in place by the previous owner around the border of the garden. The soil underneath is hard and compacted. I’ve managed to break through the hard top layer and there is some very dry soil underneath and then further down clumps of orangey (what I assume is) clay. How should this be improved?  


  • Mr. Vine EyeMr. Vine Eye Posts: 2,385
    If the clay is very hard you could add sharp sand to it to help break it up and improve drainage.

    You can improve the texture of the soil by adding compost to it, then also mulching with compost or bark when you're planting which will help keep the moisture in - then as it breaks down that will further improve the soil structure.
    East Yorkshire
  • DaveGreigDaveGreig Posts: 142
    I agree with Mr Vine Eye. Any organic matter added will be beneficial to improve the soil structure. A good watering if it’s really dry might make it all look a bit different also.

    I would also advise buying a soil testing kit from a garden centre to determine the ph of the soil before deciding on which shrubs to plant.
  • suyinkansuyinkan Posts: 9
    Brilliant, thanks to both for your advice. I hope this isn’t a silly question...but is there a difference between homemade and store bought compost?
  • IamweedyIamweedy Posts: 1,364
    Almost any fibrous matter helps improve the soil.  I use a major stores product large bags of peat free compost. 

    'You must have some bread with it me duck!'

  • HelixHelix Posts: 631
    Homemade is cheaper!  To improve soil you need an awful lot of sand/compost etc.   So get composting as soon as you can if you don’t already.  When we started on a new area we just improved big planting holes to start with, and then mulched the whole bed very heavily once or twice every year.  After 5 years the soil is now pretty good.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,550
    Unfortunately we use the word " compost " for two very different things. Garden "compost" is a soil conditioner used to add to garden soil to add nutrients/ improve structure.
    Potting "compost" is a growing medium in which we grow plants directly.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,637
    If you haven't got your own garden compost ready made yet make sure you start a couple of bins off to break down all the weeds and lawn trimmings and anything other green or brown waste.  However, if you have bindweed or horsetail it's best to put those in the council green waste bin or, better still, burn them.

    In the meantime, buy the cheapest MPC you can find to spread over clay which has been first weeded and then pierced deeply with a garden fork to allow water to penetrate more easily and improve drainage.   You can then top this with better garden soil, well-rotted horse manure and/or better quality John Innes nos 3 type compost.   It needs to be ericaceous and lime free if you plan on growing plants such as azaleas, pieris, rhododendrons.    

    Adding a mulch of well-rotted manure and/or garden or MPC compost every autumn will improve the soil's texture and health immeasurably and you won't even need to dig.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
Sign In or Register to comment.