An epic problem in landscaping is the use of chocolate loam in flower beds. Residential and commercial landscapers alike tend to use chocolate loam be default because it’s the cheapest soil you can buy. Most landscape companies do builder or commercial projects where the low bidder, not the most qualified bidder, gets the job. When you focus on low bidder work it forces you to cut every corner possible to try to keep your costs down. Plantscape Solutions does not do any type builder or commercial low bidder work. It’s just not worth it to do projects you can’t be proud of and that you know are going to be problematic for clients in the future.
The reason chocolate loam is problematic is the clay particles that comprise the soil content. The particles consist of organic matter that has broken down to the point that very little nutrient value remains. The particles are so small that there is very little space between the particles to hold air or water. You water just a little and the air gets displaced which creates a soil with very low oxygen content. Plants roots must be able to breath or they start to get stressed. This leads to stunted growth, insect issues, and poor plant longevity. It takes very little water to turn chocolate loam to mud. It can also take a long time for beds with loam to dry out to the point where the soil moisture is in the ideal range plants can tolerate. Overall, it’s not possible to consistently keep bedding areas with chocolate loam from being too wet and devoid of a sustainable level of oxygen content.
Because the nutrient content of chocolate loam is so low it also tends to stifle the type of beneficial soil biology you need to have healthy plants. The fungi, bacteria,and other micro organisms that form symbiotic relationships with plants can’t sustain themselves in the type of healthy populations you want to see in a chocolate loam environment. Composting flower beds is not really a service we seek out to offer clients but we have done it numerous times for our maintenance customers. Mixing compost into beds with loam is a great way to get much needed organic matter into the soil. This improves drainage, oxygenation of the soil, proper moisture retention, and the level symbiotic soil biology you want to see present in the soil.