How to improve soil quality without disturbing plants?
I am a complete beginner in the garden. In November we bought a new-build flat with a small, decked garden with raised beds (two different levels). The property company had already provided planting (ours was the 'show home') including two fatsia japonica, a silver birch, some ferns and some other hardy plants that I have yet to identify. The soil is a terrible quality (rubble from the building site, really). The plants already there are surviving, but anything else I plant in the soil (even when mixed with good compost) dies and I have to dig out and plant in a container to revive it. Is there any way I can improve the soil without disturbing the existing plants? I have just started a small compost heap in the hope that this may help but I have really know idea how to use this. Thanks
You can improve the soil by getting a load of well rotted horse muck dug in or forked in if it's quite well planted already.
If you go to a riding centre they normally give it away if you just turn up and collect it.
I always do this in Autumn anyway with my garden though I've got good soil. We do however have an equestrian centre and so good organic matter is readily available. Once I've cut back all the perennials and cleared out rubbish ready for winter I then get masses of well rotted horse muck just spread around the bases of all my shrubs, Rhododendrons and azaleas and roses etc and then I just put it all around or over the perennials. If there's space I'll kind of just fork it in to the top and then allow the rain and snow to do it's work and leach the organic matter down into the soil. It also has the benefit of acting as a protective mulch during winter.
However IF the builders have used your garden as a skip and then just stuck some soil on the top of masses of rubbish you could well have a problem with drainage and plants might even struggle to root through it say if they've put out plastic rubbish too.
I think I'd be inclined to dig down in a bit of space and see what is there and IF it's bad it may be worth spending some effort getting the rubbish out. You may even get a labourer with a mini-digger ... if it fits. IF however it's just a little garden and / or your not likely to stay there long, then frankly I'd go with what I suggested in the opener.