Making a good home for plants

Question: If I want to plant flowers or vegetables in my yard, what’s the single most important thing I need to do to optimize my chance of success?

Photo of bags of compost by Amanda Graham (

Answer: The most important thing you can do is make a good home in the soil for your plants. In other words, you should prepare your soil for your flowers and vegetables.

The easiest way to do this is to add some form of “well-balanced” organic matter to your soil. What does that mean? Well-balanced organic matter contains enough nitrogen and other nutrients to balance out the carbon you’re adding.

Most sources of compost or other organic amendments that you buy at a garden center come with a nutrient analysis. You want to make sure that the percentage of nitrogen or “N” is greater than 1%.

If you’re making your own compost to add to the soil, make sure that you add enough “green” with your “brown.” Here, green means grass clippings, coffee grounds, or leafy materials.

–Answered by Sally Brown, University of Washington, and Kristen McIvor, Pierce Conservation District, Tacoma, WA

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