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Natural-Leaves-kChalk Border

Chalky soils are common in our local area and they can be a challenge to garden.

Many of our chalky soils are shallow, free draining and low in fertility and stunted growth and yellowing leaves result from plants not being able to absorb essential iron and manganese through their roots.

But local variations do exist, where clay is present, nutrient levels higher and water holding capacity greater.

Chalky soils are alkaline, so will not support ericaceous acid-loving plants such as camelias and rhododendrons unless you are prepared to grow them in containers. Choosing plants that thrive in alkaline soils is the best way forward and gardeners should note that smaller plants get established more quickly than larger more mature specimens.

When planting on chalky soils it is important to first establish how deep the topsoil is. In some gardens the soil layer may be very thin before you hit solid chalk. Where this is the case, topsoil will need to be brought in to make planting possible.

In all chalk soils, if possible, break up the chalk to a depth of half a metre so that roots can spread and become established. Then add plenty of compost, organic matter together with farmyard manure and top dress with mulch to conserve moisture.

A careful watch on watering will be required for a longer period than with other soil types as plants take longer to establish and soil will dry quickly.