Tag Archives: Soil

Conserve Water by Improving Your Soil Quality

Garden Soil vs. Potting Soil

It’s hot in Utah, and very dry right now. You’ve probably heard our news stories about lakes and reservoirs already sitting at alarmingly low levels. Pineview Reservoir is currently registering 18 feet below normal for this time of year, and Lake Powell is hitting historic lows. KSL News interviewed Riley Olsen with Weber Basin who says: “We had a quite bad snowpack, it wasn’t historic lows, but it definitely wasn’t good.” Because of the poor snowpack, soil moisture levels are not good either. Olsen explains that “when that snow’s melting, it’s just going straight into the ground. Not much of the melt is making it to the reservoirs.” Olsen’s advice for Utahns is “do everything can to conserve every drop.”

Utah has promoted wise watering for years, but are you doing your part to slow the flow and save H2O? Long, deep watering cycles (not daily) are better for your plants and lawn and our waterways. Also, try to water before 10am so roots can absorb the water before the hot sun peaks. If you’re already doing this, what else can you do? Well, that’s where we come in. The right soil and some good mulch can make a world of difference.

Boost Soil and Use Mulch

High quality soil is imperative to water conservation. You don’t want irrigation water and what little rain we get to run off and not be absorbed into the places you want. Quality soil allows for this absorption, going deep into the ground where the roots are taking hold. Deeper roots mean healthier plants and less watering. Reducing soil erosion and lessening the need for pesticides and fertilizer are also benefits to using a rich, quality soil. Incorporate organic compost with a premium blend of products, such as alfalfa, grain by-products, straw, and compressed steer manure to boost poor quality native soils and promote better water retention by loosening compacted soils.

Another great water-wise landscaping technique is the proper use of mulch. Organic mulch aids in the reduction of evaporation around your flowers and plants. Boost this with a drip system and you’ll be able to sleep better at night knowing you’re maximizing efforts to conserve in our desert community. Not only is mulch a beautiful topper, but when you apply 3 to 4 inches in your beds or gardens, it will help keep out weeds and retain moisture for those thirsty plants.

Some other quick tips to being water wise are to fix any leaks you see quickly, stay on top of weeding so water doesn’t go to unnecessary plants, adjust your mower to a higher setting to shade your grass and promote a deeper root system, and even wash your dog outside and close to flowers or an area that’s dry in your lawn—your dog will love the cool water during the summer, too.

Being water wise doesn’t mean you need to xeriscape your entire yard. With a few smart switches, you can have a beautiful, green, water wise yard all summer long. At The Dirt Bag, we sell the highest quality soil prep, organic composts, and mulch options to maximize your conservation efforts.

Prepare Your Garden for Winter

Winter Preparation for your Garden

A little preparation goes a long way, especially when it comes to transitioning your garden for the winter. Everybody needs a plan for this transition. Keep in mind that the winter months are really about cleaning out any beds and removing the last of summer crops and plants that aren’t going to survive the winter months. If you take some time now to clean and prep your garden, you’ll have a much easier season come spring. If you can, cover and protect the soil once all old harvest has been removed.

Adding a layer of mulch right now, whether you buy it from a reputable source or use your autumn leaves, can provide an excellent buffer. You can follow this up with burlap right on top of the soil. It provides a much more appealing and natural look than plastic (though that works, too). If you choose to sow over your crop, you can create a beautiful green mulch that can be chopped directly into the soil for next spring’s compost.

Cover Up Your Garden

You’re not the only one who could use some extra layers this time of year. A cover crop mix is an excellent addition to your winter cover, and you can find it in bulk at The Dirt Bag. This often includes ingredients like rye, barley, favas, and vetch. In other words, it’s a tasty little treat for your garden that will keep it warm and happy as we brave the coldest months.

For those who miss the joys of gardening, there’s still plenty you can do! Did you know you can still plant garlic this time of year? Put single cloves 6 – 8 inches apart and make sure they’re “tips up.” Planting them two inches below the surface is ideal. You can also start collecting flower head seeds this time of year so you have seeds ready to go in a few months. However, be careful with this—seeds are very easy to drop and you certainly don’t want to get stuck weeding out hundreds of borage plants in the spring.

Composting Time

As you’re removing the spring and summer harvest, spend a little time reconsidering your compost strategy (or start one if you haven’t yet!). All annual plants can be composted, as can your berries, fruits, and veggies. This can be the perfect time to neaten up an existing composting pile, start binning compost to keep pests out or start your first composting journey.

You don’t want to remove perennial plants, of course. However, they would benefit from being cut back. Oregano, thyme, and sage are some of the most common perennial herbs that could use a little trimming this time of year. Cut off any areas that are brown, but don’t trim any new shoots. These plants can enjoy a slow growth during the winter months if you let them.

Ready to start your winter transition? Let us help! Contact The Dirt Bag for tips, recommendations, and the best products for winter gardening.


Soil vs. Sand

Is your landscaping project better suited for sand, soil, or a combination of both? Ultimately, sand is a type of soil, as is peat, silt, loam, and clay. All of these soils are created when rocks are broken up, usually by natural forces like salts, wind, or water. Soil is actually a pretty broad definition, especially in the world of landscaping, and refers to the top layer of the earth. However, sand is unique because it’s made up entirely of rocks and sometimes mineral grains. 

Sand is formed when these mineral particles and rocks are finely and somewhat evenly divided. Sand is different in various parts of the world but is generally comprised of calcium carbonate, silica, and a variety of other materials. A single grain of sand is non-porous, so it doesn’t hold water. However, sand particles have plenty of space between them to allow for free-flowing air passage. Soil is different because it’s mostly comprised of organic matter from plants and animals that live in or use the soil. Soil is porous, so it holds water and the little particles that make up soil are packed tightly together. Soil can be penetrated less easily than sand, so water can even sit on top of it.

Why Use Sand?

Sand can be a fantastic choice for many landscaping projects. One of the most common uses is in between pavers. Sand has a leveling quality so that pavers don’t break or move as easily. You can also use sand to create concrete for walkways, edging, outdoor patios, and much more. Of course, sand is also a popular choice to create play areas like a sandbox. Sand might also be your best bet to go under play areas to allow for a soft landing. Many sports areas are created largely with sand, using pavers or wood as the “rim.”

Alternatively, garden soil is designed to nurture certain kinds of veggies, flowers, or herbs. The exact soil makeup for your yard or garden will depend on what types of plants you want to support. There’s also “black dirt,” which isn’t the best choice for plants but can be a great option for filling in areas, prepping yards for sod, or making walkways. Black dirt has an especially large amount of organic material from plants. “Compost” is the term for organic material that has decomposed. It’s not an alternative for soil or black dirt, but rather an additive. Compost can be made of animal or plant material (or both) and is full of nutrients to make the soil even healthier for plants.

Making Your Decision

Sand is a type of soil, and all types of soil have various benefits depending on your goals. It’s very common for gardeners and homeowners to select a variety of different soils for various parts of their yard and gardening projects. Within these subsets of soils (such as sand or compost), there is also a myriad of additional types. The Dirt Bag will work with you to determine your needs and design an order just for you.

Soil for Your Garden Bed

The Dirt Bag Garden Soil
Garden Soil West Jordan, Utah

A raised garden bed is a beautiful addition to any yard and can increase a home’s curb appeal dramatically. However, before you start planting and gardening, you need to consider what type of soil to use in these beds, and The Dirt Bag can help. Besides looking gorgeous, a huge perk of a raised garden bed is having complete control over the soil (and mulch in some cases). For those who have a yard with especially tough soil in which to grow vegetables and flowers, garden beds are even better. You don’t have to worry about dealing with clay soil, pollutants in the dirt, or any issues with tree roots. Great soil is the key to a healthy garden, so choosing the best topsoil for a gardening bed is a big decision.

Although you can get garden beds in various sizes, the best are usually between six and eight feet long, between three and four feet wide, and up to about one foot tall. This gives you the perfect dimensions to plant, weed, sow, and of course, you can do all of this from the comfort of the bedside. The soil in a bed stays loose and resists becoming hard-packed (particularly from footsteps which you no longer have to worry about). Before figuring out the kind of soil you want, you also need to consider how much you’ll need—and it’s always more than you think. Many gardeners opt for soil delivery (which is free at The Dirt Bag), but smaller beds may be able to get filled with bag purchases.

Fill ‘er Up with Soil

Gardeners who remove the bottom part of a raised bed might want to uproot the grass and flip it over. It will break down over time and also help reduce the amount of soil you’ll need to purchase. The exact best soil mix for you will vary based on your region and what you want to grow, but many gardeners choose a triple mix (topsoil, peat moss/black loam, and compost). A direct 50/50 variation is one of the most popular picks in the US, which blends topsoil with compost. It’s important to know exactly where your soil is coming from since you don’t want topsoil that’s been sitting for a long time with its nutrients leaking out (don’t worry—at The Dirt Bag, that’s never a problem).

Some other soil providers get their topsoil from various new subdivisions being built. This is low-quality soil that doesn’t belong in your garden. However, if you’re purchasing bags of topsoil, look for labels that say “organic vegetable” or “herb mix” that’s designed for growing veggies and flowers. You might want to fill your beds almost to the top with your customized mix, then top it with a bit of compost. Make sure your compost is also organic vegetable compost. If you don’t already create compost yourself, getting a raised garden bed is the perfect excuse to start. You can always top off your beds with your very own compost to help direct more nutrients into the soil. Find out more about soil and compost for raised beds by calling The Dirt Bag today.