Help protect the Bay by treating your soil as a valuable resource. You can improve poor soil through regular incorporation of organic matter like compost, rotted manure, leaves and grass clippings. Prevent soil erosion with raised beds, ground covers and cover crops. Take a soil test from the major sections of your property- e.g. vegetable garden, front yard, backyard- if you have not already done so.
For new homes, new beds, and poor soil sites, you may need to work in 4-6 inches of compost, leaf mold, or aged manure, for 2 or 3 years to see improvement. Thereafter you should continue adding at least 1 inch each year.
Sweep granular fertilizers off plant foliage when side-dressing vegetables and flowers. Fertilizer salts can burn foliage. Fertilize plants according to their specific needs based on soil test recommendations. Trees are typically fertilized after they drop their leaves in the fall, not in the spring. Mature shade trees do not typically need to be fertilized at all. Bluegrass and fescue turf is fertilized in the fall as well.
Fall mulching is not recommended until after the ground freezes. Mulching too early can delay dormancy and damage plants. Mulches should be applied only 2-3 inches deep around ornamental plants and kept away from shrub and tree trunks. Mature trees do not benefit from being mulched.