The Condition Of Your Garden Soil Is Important.

By: Gambo Navi

When you Pick up a handful of soil from your garden, I bet you are thinking, "this is ordinary, unexciting earth". Yet it is an example of nature's miracles, and one of her most complex products. Your success as a gardener will for the most part depend upon 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 important for support of both plant and soil life - it is also the carrier of nutrients. Water is absorbed into humus and absorbed on to the surface of particles. Water adheres tightly to clay, restricting both drainage and uptake by the roots.

Air - Air is important 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 throughout the soil pores.

Mineral particles - The non-living skeleton of your 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 kind of parent rock.

Organic matter - Fertile soils contain at least 5 per cent organic matter. This is 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 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 which are there. When course particles predominate, the soil is described as light. If the particles are minute, the soil is called heavy. The perfect soil lies between these two extremes. The course and minute particles need to be evenly balanced to provide the medium-texture soil referred to as loam. Soil scientists have recognised seventeen or more types of mineral soil texture, but for the average gardener there are 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 fixed 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 alter 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 fundamental texture unless you add vast quantities of the deficient mineral particle. So your soil will remain basically clayey, sandy etc., which means you should, where possible, choose plants that the catalogues recommend for your particular soil type.

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An unbelievable period of my time is spent in my garden, but as I am getting older things are getting harder to do. I have decided to make use of a firm called Contractor. 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 when I can.

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