I’m in the process of planning a woodland garden on some property that I own and I’m trying to understand options for getting the soil workable.

The ground is almost bouncy when walked on and very difficult to dig because everything seems to be connected by the tiniest of roots and such. The soil is compacted and essentially comes up in blocks when dug with a spade, but does have some actual dirt a few inches down. I’m not entirely sure what type of soil this is. I was thinking it may be peat due to the presence of creeks/wetlands on the property, but I’m really not sure how to identify it.

Another note: there is almost nothing growing in the soil currently. Some sporadic patches of small forest plants, some sporadic ferns, but it’s mostly just fallen leaves. The forest floor gets little to no sunlight when the deciduous trees have filled in during the spring, and stays relatively moist.

My plan is to till to loosen it up a bit so that I can plant some ferns and ground cover, but I’m wondering if there’s anything I should know before doing this. I was thinking about amending with manure as well.

I’m brand new to gardening, and I know exactly what I want.. just want to do it the right way.

Peter Bowden Answered question May 3, 2023

It would be OK to till down several inches.  If you want to add limestone into the soil to to reduce the acidity, this would be the time to do it but you might want to do a quick pH tesy to see how acid it really is.  pH test kits can be purchased at the garden center for a few dollars and it is an easy test to perform but you’ll also need some distilled water.  Tilling time would also be a good time to amend the soil with composted manure and especially Bio-Tone organic starter food to introduce beneficial soil microbes and fungi to the area.

Peter Bowden Answered question May 3, 2023

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