Amending poor soil


My small front garden soil needs amending. I got some compost from the city but would like to know what type of soil to buy ( black earth, triple mix, etc) and what ratio should I use with the city compost?
There is a very large tree in this garden with many tree roots. Do you have an suggestions as to perennials that grow well in shallow gardens?

Thank you very much.


It is not possible to determine what your soil needs from a picture and not knowing your geographic location.  I suspect it is probably clay soil, as is typical in most of Toronto.  However, to know more about the fertility level and needs, it would be best to conduct some tests.

We do have a comprehensive guide to soil fertility (see link),  Soil Fertility: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide. You will find solid information and helpful advice in it.

The problem of a large tree with shallow roots is another matter.  I am guessing that the tree also casts a lot of shade.  Dry shade and shallow tree roots are a nasty combination, but there are solutions.

Here is our guide to Drought Tolerant Perennials.

There you will find good information about the plants you might choose.  In addition, we are often asked about what to grow under maple trees, which are notorious for shallow roots as well as for creating dry shade.  Here is the answer we provided to another gardener, regarding good perennial ground covers for this situation.

And finally, we often recommend that you consider using containers in such a space, so that your plants are not fighting with those shallow tree roots.  Containers are useful also, since you can move them over the season to capture as much sunlight as possible.