Conditioning Your Garden Soil.

By: Rick Skew

Pick up a handful of soil from your garden. I bet you are thinking, "this is ordinary, unexciting earth". Yet it is one of nature's miracles, and one of her most complex products. Your success as a gardener will for the most part depend on its condition, so take the first bold step in gardening.... get to understand your soil.

All soils are composed of four basic components, these are:
Water - Water is essential for support of both plant and soil life - it is also the provider of nutrients. Water is absorbed into humus and absorbed on to the top of particles. Water adheres tightly to clay, restricting both drainage and uptake by the roots.

Air - Air is essential for the support of plant life and desirable for soil life - it is also necessary for the breakdown of organic matter to release nutrients. Movement of air is necessary to avoid the build up of toxic gases. This movement takes place through the soil pores.

Mineral particles - The non-living skeleton of the soil is derived from the breakdown of rocks by weathering. The parent rock usually (but not at all times) lies under the soil and both the fertility and size of the particles are governed by the type of parent rock.

Organic matter - Fertile soils contain at least 5 per cent organic matter. This is found present as a mixture of living, dead and decomposed organisms, both animal and vegetable. True humus is the dark jelly-like substance which binds mineral particles into crumbs.

The physical quality of the resulting blend that we all know as soil is described as its texture or structure, but these two terms donot mean the exact same thing.

Soil texture: refers to the proportions of the different sized mineral particles that are there. When course particles prevail, the soil is described as light. When the particles are minute, the soil is called heavy. The ideal soil lies between these two extremes. The course and minute particles should be evenly balanced to produce the medium-texture soil called loam. Soil scientists have recognised seventeen or more kinds of mineral soil texture, but for the average gardener there is just 8 basic types, these can be put in to 3 groups. Light soil, medium soil and heavy soil.

Soil structure; refers to the way the mineral particles are joined all together, they may be grouped as clods, plates or crumbs. A crumb structure is ideal - it is what we call 'friable soil' with a 'good tilth'.

Your soil may be nothing like a crumbly loam. It may be a back-breaking clay or it could be sandy stuff which always needs feeding and watering. Do not despair, it is quite simple to change the structure of any soil. Organic matter will cement sand grains into crumbs. Digging, liming and organic matter achieve the same effect on clay particles.

The improvement can be spectacular, but you can not change the basic texture unless you add vast quantities of the deficient mineral particle. So your soil will remain basically clayey, sandy etc., this means that you should, wherever possible, choose plants which the catalogues recommend for your particular soil type.

Article Directory:

| More

An amazing period of my time is spent in my garden, but as I am getting older and things are getting harder to do. I have decided to make use of a company called Landscape Gardeners. So far they have given me all the help and advice that I have asked for. I still do a bit of pottering around my own garden.

Please Rate this Article


Not yet Rated

Click the XML Icon Above to Receive Other A&E Articles Articles Via RSS!

Powered by Article Dashboard