Burnett: Budget in some real top soil

‘Pocket planting’ is where a hole is dug a few inches larger than the root ball of the plant…and a little bit of soil is placed in it.

BurnettAfter many years of helping homeowners and landscapers with planting suggestions I have found there has been a major transition with addressing the issue of top soil.

Prior to much of the new housing projects occurring on the hillsides and mountain tops where there is no appreciable soil, most landscapers were able to use the soil already on the property, with perhaps only a little amendment required.

When soil was needed in gravel and hard pan conditions, it was readily available from other stripped down developments built on farmland—which is another contentious topic of discussion. Top soil today is treated with a little more respect than it was in the past, however not to the degree it should.

When I speak of the transition I’m referring to landscaping using as little top soil as possible to keep costs down. Today good top soil is at a premium and therefore it has become necessary to ‘create’ soil by blending compost, sand and native soil with the associated costs of doing this.

This is why I now see a process the landscapers call ‘pocket planting’ where a hole is dug a few inches larger than the root ball of the plant to be used and a little bit of soil is placed in it.

Then the area around the plants is covered with landscape fabric and decorative rock mulch placed on top of that. The end result with this method is acceptable to many, however this is not gardening folks!

What happens when the homeowner wants to plant a few bulbs in the fall or work some annual colour into the scheme of things? You can’t dig holes in gravel, clay or hard pan.

My suggestion is to incorporate a good amount of blended top soil into your budget.

The British Columbia Landscape Nursery Association has strict standards for depth and makeup of top soil for turf, shrubs and trees which should be followed by all landscapers and homeowners who wish to do any gardening after the initial installation of their project.

When these recommendations are followed, the plants do so much better and, by using composted mulch instead of rock, the property stays cooler.


A few years ago I was honoured to have a genealogical search done on my mother’s side of the family and from that I have met some previously unknown relatives both in Canada and the UK and I’ve gained a greater understanding of where I came from.

The Kelowna and District Genealogical Society is holding its annual Harvest Your Family Tree Conference this Sept. 23 to 25 and if you are a novice or an experienced expert in this fascinating activity then it is a must you attend.

This event has become one of Canada’s largest and most diverse conferences of its kind with speakers and coaches from the US, Canada and the UK. With 33 workshops on topics ranging from how to get started to in-depth information on how to access century-old records.

Register soon because some of the workshops are getting booked up. The website is kdgs.ca and the phone number for registrar Marie Ablett is 250-763-7159 or email Conference@kdgs.ca