Maine soils vary widely from sandy to clay-like with every combination in between. This can make choosing the right plants for your location challenging. First, try to be realistic as to whether you want to work at preparing your soil to accept a wider array of plants or seek out plants that would tolerate the soil you have. Most gardeners we encounter at Estabrook's choose to amend their soils with organic matter or other natural ingredients to provide drainage, aeration and nutrients, thus widening the palette of plants they can grow.
To determine what kind of soil you have, remove a tennis ball sized amount of soil and place it in the palm of your hand. Squeeze tightly and then gradually release your grip. If the soil stays in a clump without breaking apart, chances are you have a clay based soil. If the soil starts as a clump but begins to gradually break apart you probably have a sand or clay based soil high in organic matter. If the soil immediately starts to crumble you probably have a soil made up of mostly sand.
Remember this is a general test and be sure to test different areas. Soil types can vary greatly due to home construction and other outside influences. Please contact us if you think you need more specific advice.
Whatever your soil type, an application of organic matter is a good idea at anytime, since these amendments are depleted by time and absorption from plant roots. Below you will find a few tips to help you make the most of the soil nature has "dealt" you.
The primary concern with sandy soils is their inability to hold water and nutrients, causing them to dry out quickly and for plants to grow weakly. The following items are commonly added to improve these deficiencies. After each is a rough application rate and preparation tips.
The biggest concern with clay soils is their tendency to shed water when dry and to provide too little aeration to plant roots when moist. Dry clay soils will make plant root penetration difficult, while wet clay soils will suffocate plants and encourage certain diseases that thrive in low oxygen soils. Adding amendments will counteract these tendencies and also add the capacity to hold more nutrients. The following list, although very similar to the one for a sandy soil, provides different benefits in clay.