3810 Whites Creek Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 (615) 876-1014

Seasonal Tips

Selecting the right soil and amendments


Before you begin planting make sure your planting soil is at its best. A healthy soil, high in organic matter, will ensure the health of the plants you install. That said, not all plants will thrive in identical soil mixtures. At Bates Nursery & Garden Center, we strive to offer the most complete selection of soils and amendments to insure success in the garden and your landscape.


The use of organic soil amendments will improve the texture, drainage, and nutrient availability in the soil. There are many types of soil amendments available. When selecting an amendment consider the plants you will be installing and their requirements as well as the current condition of your soil.

Most plants prefer a moist, well-drained, loamy soil high in organic matter. However, some plants, such as portulaca and purslane, and sedum, prefer a well-drained soil with less organic matter. A Weeping Willow or Bald Cypress on the other hand cannot be overwatered and thrive in loamy soils rich in organic matter. When planning a bed or planting area, select plants with similar soil, light, and water requirements.


To test the drainage of you soil dig a hole 1'x1'x1' and fill it with water. If it drains quickly the soil is sandy and will tend to be dry, if it drains in about an hour the soil is well drained, if the water holds for several hours the soil is poorly drained.

When adding soil amendments till in the amendments to at least 12-15" depth. When digging a hole for planting a tree or shrub, the amendments should be thoroughly mixed with the soil being used to plant. Plants grow in direct proportion to the resistance their roots meet; failure to prepare soil properly often results in poor growth.


Soil amendments and their uses:


Composted Manure is an excellent amendment; it improves soil structure, aeration, soil moisture-holding capacity, and water infiltration. Plus it acts as a fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients.


Compost and Organic Humus is the end product of decomposition of plants as well as the living and dead cells of soil bacteria and fungi. Compost improves the cation exchange capacity (CEC) of the soil. This means that compost can hold onto nutrients in the soil and then release them later as the components in the soil water solution change. Everyone should compost at home; from grass clippings and leaves to chipped dead wood particles from your trees to vegetable food preparation, it’s a great way to produce much of your own organic material and keep it out of landfills.


Mushroom Compost components include composted wheat or rye straw, manures (chicken, horse and cow), gypsum, lime, and other organic materials. Mushroom compost has a very high supply of nutrients and increases the water-holding capacity of the soil. However, it can be detrimental to seeds, seedlings and young plants when used fresh and undiluted. The soluble salts and other nutrients in fresh, undiluted mushroom compost are too concentrated for germinating seeds.


Sphagnum Peat Moss consists of visible fibers of sphagnum mosses. It is lightweight, acidic and has a high moisture-holding capacity. The low pH of sphagnum peats (from 3 to 4.5) makes them better suited for use with acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas and blueberries.


Pine Fines Soil Conditioner may be used as a soil amendment or as a mulch. Pine fines are the very small pieces of pine bark that are removed during the screening process of aged pine bark nuggets, also used as a mulch. Because pine fines have such a fine texture they make excellent mulch for flowerbeds. As a soil amendment pine fines improve drainage, add organic matter, and help to maintain an acidic soil as they have a low pH, great for acid-loving plants.


EarthMix® Premium Topsoil Blend is a true topsoil blend mixed at Bates Nursery. It contains topsoil, ground and sifted to a consistent fine texture. The pure topsoil is then mixed with pine fines soil conditioner, mushroom compost, and other organic amendments. EarthMix® Premium Topsoil Blend may be used for filling imperfect grades, planter boxes, and outdoor container gardening. It is also great for topdressing as well as replacing and/or improving less than perfect soils.


EarthMix® Premium Soil Conditioner is a blend of pine fines soil conditioner, mushroom compost, mycorrhizae fungi, and soluble calcium and gypsum that combines the “best of the best” in soil amendments; PSC is the perfect amendment for most planting applications.


EarthMix® Earthworm Castings is the gold standard for organic gardening enthusiasts. Earthworms are raised is sphagnum peat; once the worms are removed, the remaining “castings” are a nutrient rich organic amendment suitable for any gardening or landscape use.