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Healthy soil

All vegetables, flower and herbs will thrive in soil that’s rich in nutrients. Find out how to prepare your patch for bumper crops!

Plants not growing well? Healthy soil that is rich in nutrients is vital so your seedlings will grow big and strong! Follow these tips to help your Little Garden grow.


Soil fixes

Poor soil? Try growing your Little Garden crops in raised beds or in pots where you can use potting mix to give them the nutrients and drainage they need.  

Improve heavy clay soil by digging in Gypsum and compost and mixing in bought topsoil to the upper layer before you plant. 

Improve light, sandy soil by adding organic matter. 

Adding organic matter (compost, but also aged manure, pea straw, any sort of organic mulch, green manure and lots of other things) is a great way to improve soil structure regardless of what sort of soil you start with.  

Find out what kind of soil you have in your garden with these three easy tests.
Test 1: Get your hands dirty
  • Take a handful of damp soil and roll it between your fingers, then open your hand.  
  • If the soil forms into a solid sausage, you have clay soil.  
  • If it falls apart as soon as you open your hand, you have sandy soil.  
  • If it holds together at first but falls apart when you poke it, you have loam: this is good soil for growing pretty much everything. 
  • Test 2: Get scientific (white lab coat optional!) 
  • Get a jam jar, and fill it about halfway with soil. Add water, put the lid on the jar and shake it for a few minutes.  
  • Leave the jar for a few hours so the soil can settle into layers, then carefully inspect the size of the layers that form: the bottom layer is sand, the middle layer is silt and the top layer is clay. Good soil is 40% sand, 40% silt and 20% clay.  
  • Test 3: Check the pH levels 
  • Knowing the acidity levels of your soil can be useful for …..
  • To find out your soil's pH level (whether your soil is acidic or alkaline) start with two jam jars and put a handful of soil in each. 
  • Add ¼ cup of vinegar to one jar. If the mixture bubbles, your soil is alkaline. 
  • Add ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of water to the other jar. If the mixture bubbles, your soil is acidic. 
  • If neither jar bubbles your soil has neutral pH of about seven, and this is ideal for most plants.
  • Add compost your soil

    Compost is a great soil conditioner and adds important organic matter to your soil. Keep the soil in your vegetable garden healthy by digging through compost a few weeks before you plan to plant anything outside. If you can’t compost at home this Tui compost is a great option.

    Fertiliser is packed with nutrients your Little Garden needs to grow. 

    For healthy gardens a combination of both soil conditioners and blended fertilisers should be used. Remember to always water well after feeding.

    There are two types of fertiliser needed to create healthy gardens. Soil conditioners like sheep pellets, compost and blood and bone are essential to improve the physical condition of the soil by improving the structure, micro-organism activity and the water-holding capacity of soils. Find out more about feeding your crops at

    Make your own fertiliser

    Make sure an adult is with you at all times while preparing or using plant spray.

    Seaweed fertiliser

    Here's a simple fertiliser you can make at home.

    Seaweed is packed with the nutrients your Little Garden crops need.

    To make your own fertiliser, gather seaweed from your local beach (check your council restrictions first, because collecting seaweed is prohibited on some beaches), and wash it to remove excess salt. Put it in a lidded barrel, then fill with water. Drill a few holes in the lid and seal the barrel.

    After a couple of months, stir it and dilute it with water so it’s the colour of weak tea and apply to any plants needing a boost.

    Make sure you put a lid on the barrel and place it downwind of your house as this stuff stinks. 

    If you can’t make it to the beach to get seaweed or if your council doesn’t allow it you can use Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic.

    Potting mix tips

    Use potting mix if you're growing your Little Garden crops in pots.

    Soil from your garden can contain weeds’ seeds and spores that will cause fungal infections.

    Commercial seed-raising mixes are a great choice for seedlings as most contain a fast-acting fertiliser to feed your plants and a fungicide to prevent fungal infections. Tui Seed-raising mix is a light, free draining mix specially blended to provide ideal conditions for germinating seeds and seedling establishment. 

    Use in seed raising trays, your garden, containers and pots to provide your seeds with the ultimate growing conditions.

    Potting mix usually contains more nutrients than seed-raising mix.

    It also normally contains a fungicide and a wetting agent so it can hold water. It should also contain a controlled-release fertiliser which will feed your plant for up to six months and is a great choice if you plan to grow your Little Garden seedlings in pots.

    There are special mixes available for growing just about every type of plant.

    These mixes contain the right combination of nutrients and good soil growing conditions for a specific plant-type. You can use specialty potting mixes for your Little Garden crops or an all-purpose variety like Tui All Purpose potting mix. 

    Once your seeds have germinated and have two sets of true leaves, you can transplant into your garden or pots and containers. Use a mix that is specially designed for what you are planting – For vegetables, we recommend using this Tui Vegetable Mix which contains the right blend of nutrients to provide your veges with the best possible start.

    Be careful around any bagged soil mix as there’s a small chance these can contain a harmful micro-organism that causes Legionnaires disease. Open bags slowly using scissors, rather than tearing them open, especially if the mix is dry, and keep the bag away from your face. Avoid using bagged mixes in unventilated indoor spaces. Wear gloves and a mask when handling potting mix and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.


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    Thanks to Tui Garden