Florida soil varies from fine sand to dense clay, but most Florida gardeners need to amend their soil in order to provide plants with good nutrition. Add organic matter and mulch to help create healthy soil and choose native plants that are adapted to your region’s conditions.
Ah, Florida. The state has near-perfect weather to grow our favorite plants year-round but, in many areas, lacks the rich soil to support them. Most Florida gardeners need to amend their soil in order to provide plants with good nutrition.
What Soil Type Are You Working With?
Most of the soil throughout Florida is Myakka, a fine sand. Myakka is the official state soil, covering about 1.5 million acres across the state. However, the state does have soil variety. It is important to identify your soil type so that you can take the appropriate measures to provide a rich growing environment for your plants.
Gardeners in the panhandle are well aware of this region’s clay soil. Clay soil is nutrient-rich but dense and slow to drain. It gets easily compacted and must be loosened so that plant roots can spread out and absorb water and nutrients.
North and Central Florida Sand
Myakka is found predominately in North and Central Florida. This sandy soil does not hold water or nutrients and requires amendments. It can also become compacted under heavy foot and vehicle traffic, like that around new-home construction, and necessitates loosening before planting.
South Florida: Peat or Sand
The Everglades region has rich, peat-based soil. If you live in this area, you likely don’t need to amend your soil at all. Farther south, however, you’ll find sandy, shallow soil with a limestone bedrock underneath. The limestone causes high pH, which can result in nutrient deficiency for many plants.
How to Help Your Soil
The key to a healthy garden is healthy soil. This means your garden soil should be loose enough to drain water but able to hold moisture and support plants with plenty of nutrients and microorganisms.
Adding organic matter to your soil will increase the nutrient content and stabilize its pH level. Organic material will keep sandy soil from drying out quickly while aerating clay soil and improving drainage.
Potting soil can be beneficial for small garden beds, but it is an expensive approach for larger plots. We recommend choosing from several materials, like compost, worm castings, peat moss, or manure. You can make compost at home or find a local source. After loosening compacted soil, work the organic material 4 to 6 inches into the ground.
In sandy soils, mulch is incredibly beneficial. A healthy layer of mulch will help your soil retain moisture, and it will continue to add new organic matter to the soil as it decomposes.
Native Plants Do Best
Find out your soil’s pH level by taking a sample to your IFAS Extension office and getting it tested. Based on the soil’s acidity or alkalinity, choose native plants that are adapted to these conditions. Attempting to alter your garden soil’s pH by supplementing it with microelements may produce desired results for a little while, but they will not be long-lasting.
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