Want healthy plants and rich crops? Learn how to build a good gardening soil by feeding it.
You can be sure that a garden has a well-fed soil if the foliage looks fresh and vibrant. Some people think that dirt is nothing more than icky brown chunks, but it’s actually a vital source of life. Beneath the grass and the plant roots, there is a whole micro universe of breathing and beating organisms that provide much needed soil nutrients, help retain water and fight pests. It’s important to provide soil food that’s rich on organic amendments if you want to succeed in gardening.
What are the different types of soil?
You might think that soil is all the same, but you can’t be more wrong. There are six different types of soil and each comes with its features and drawbacks. Let’s see the soil types and how to make the most of each.
Clay soil holds water, feels clumpy and sticky when wet and rock solid when it dries up. It usually leads to drainage problems and can cause the plants wet feet and eventually root rotting. If you want your plants to survive in clay soil, it’s better to mix it with sand and even small pebbles.
Clay soil is perfect for growing fruit and ornamental trees, shrubs and even summer crop vegetables.
Sandy soil is the opposite of clay soil. It can’t retain water and moisture quickly escapes the soil. Due to its quick drying ability, it can’t hold nutrients and not many plants manage to thrive in it. However, you can add organic amendments to it such as kelp meal and greensand to improve it.
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Sandy soil is perfect for growing tulips, hibiscus, sun roses, and some root vegetables like carrots and potatoes.
Silty soil can be considered perfect. It holds moisture and nutrients well, it’s easy to cultivate and compact it. However, you might need to aid drainage by mixing it with compost.
Silty soil is good for growing most plants such as shrubs, fruit and vegetable crops, grasses, and climbing greens.
Peaty soil is an acidic soil that feels damp to the touch. Due to its acidity it slows down decomposition and can’t retain nutrients needed for plant growth. You can reduce the acidity by mixing it with rich, organic compost matter and lime. Another thing to consider when planting in peaty soil is drainage. You may have to dig drainage channels if you want to prevent water clogging.
Peaty soil is perfect for growing rhododendrons, legumes, root crops and salads.
Chalky soil is easy to spot. It’s stonier-looking compared to other types of soil. It drains quickly but its alkaline nature can yellow leaves in plants and slowed growth. You can amend it by adding humus and using a fertilizer that balances the pH of the soil.
Chalky soil is good for growing some bulbs, leafy greens such as spinach, trees, corn, and cabbage.
Loamy soil can be considered a mixture of sandy, silty and clay soil. It’s considered ideal for gardening and any plant can thrive in it. It has proper drainage, can hold enough water and nutrition which provide perfect growing conditions.[amazonjs asin=”B01M1CRG6R” locale=”US” title=”COVERY 3 in 1 Soil Tester Moisture Meter, Light and PH acidity Tester, Plant Tester for Garden, Farm, Lawn, Indoor & Outdoor (No Battery needed) Easy Read Indicator”]
Loamy soil can be used to grow most plants, varying from trees to flowers to fruit and vegetable crops. However, it’s good to regularly refresh it with organic compost and rotate crops every year.
What is the difference between cohesive soil and cohesionless soil?
Cohesive soil can be described as soil with cohesive strength. This means its particles stay together tightly and don’t crumble easily when you dig into the soil. Clay say can be referred as cohesive because it’s hard to break it when dry.
The cohesionless soil is the opposite of cohesive. The particles can’t stay closely together and depend on friction to stay in shape. Good examples of cohesionless soil are sand and gravel.
Both types of soil aren’t suitable for growing crops, however some types of plants tend to thrive in these conditions. You can always make amendments to the soil and increase your chances of growing healthy plants.
What is Soil Food?
Anything that was alive (like plants, no dead bodies) can turn into suitable food for soil. The best-proven food source for your ground is compost. Anything that can go in the compost bin can be used to feed your garden soil. Dirt is already full with organic food sources like worms, and other tiny living organisms, that provide natural amendments, but you can use your kitchen scraps, leaves, grass clippings and other waste materials from garden maintenance. They will provide enough food to help build good soil for gardening.
You will be amazed how someone’s “trash” can turn into delicious fruits and vegetables for you and your family.
Tested times and times again, compost is the perfect organic food for soil. Many home gardeners across the globe use it to feed their gardens. You can even make your own compost box and use kitchen scrap and waste from your yard. Load a wheelbarrow in spring and autumn and feed the ground with pure, organic mulch. It will pay you back with vibrant, green foliage and bigger, tastier fruits and vegetables.
It’s true that compost takes longer to make, but it sure is a priceless soil builder. However, there are people that say that this magic soil food loses valuable nutrients during the composting process. If you use compost, make sure your garden plants get plenty of nutrients from other sources such as commercial or DIY fertilizers.
Manure is another good source to build a better garden soil. If you live at a farm, or close to one, you can this soil food from there. On the other hand, if you live in a bigger town, you can buy manure from your local garden center. Keep in mind that manure nutrients vary from one to another, depending from what type of animal I came. Chicken manure is packed with nitrogen, while composted horse manure lacks it.
For better results and good garden soil, add fresh manure at least two weeks before planting.
There is no parallel soil food to autumn leaves. They may not be able to replace fertilizers, but they sure can make wonders when it comes to soil improvement. Leaves can improve overall conditions and help build organic matter. Autumn foliage can increase soil fertility and the amount of water in sandy soils, while it softens and breaks up clay.
When you prepare your garden for planting, you can work fresh or composted leaves into the soil. Just remember that when you use fresh leaves you need to cut to shred them in small pieces and mix them with soil in the autumn. Work fresh or composted leaves directly into the soil when preparing gardens. If using fresh, shred first and dig into soils in the fall or spread as a thick fall mulch. When you decide to make composted leaf mold, just throw the foliage in a bag or an empty garbage can. They will have a terrible stench after a few months, but they will definitely turn into a priceless garden delicacy.
You can also use green manures instead of the common compost and manure. Now, what exactly is “green manure”? According to Wikipedia, “green manure is created by leaving uprooted or mown crop parts to wither on a field so that they serve as a mulch and soil amendment”. It’s associated with organic farming and is great for providing soil food. Also, green manure is practically free, except for the small costs of seeds. It performs different functions such as soil improvement and soil protection.
You should use these green manures to fill a gap between planting season or between garden beds, advises Pol Bishop, a professional gardener at Fantastic Gardeners. There are different types of plants suitable for green manure, depending on your region and hardiness zone. Some of the popular green manure crops are buckwheat, alfalfa, soybeans, daikon radish, and other.