There are different soil types and different species of plants have different requirements. Soil types vary in different areas and there is no much point in trying to alter it unless you are doing it on a commercial basis, for example a football club trying to get optimum soil type for the species of grass it is using. Once you have established the type of soil you have, there are lots of ways it can be improved. If your soil is in good condition then your plants will be to. |
If you wish to improve your soil, you must identify its characteristics, is it clay based, chalky or sandy? You can find out all you need to know by simply working the soil you wish to grow in and information of local area soil types is easily available on the internet or your local library. You can also test for the acidity or alkalinity of the soil with a soil testing kit which are widely available in garden centers.
Clay soil can be so compact that even in the middle of summer it can retain plenty of water, sandy soils is made up of larger particles and can warm up and cool down very quickly. Chalky soil leaches water and nutrients very quickly and is a shallow stony soil. Loam is by far the best soil to grow in, it is very well balanced and does a very good job of retaining nutrients.
Sand Based Soils:
This is a very light and easily worked soil, in the spring this soil warms up very quickly which gives the plants a good beginning to the season. However, they drain very well so nutrients are easily washed away, this is known as leaching. Sandy soils require lots of fertilizer or organic matter added to them.
Loam Based Soils:
Loam is a rich and nutritious soil type which also holds water well; this is the soil type that is also used in sports like cricket and tennis. Loam is a mixture of sand and clay and is a particularly good soil to cultivate in as long as it does not become to compact.
Clay Based Soils:
Clay is made up of particles that clog together and can become very compacted, although clay soils can become very rich, the compaction leads to a lack of air pockets in the soil which in turn leads to a lack of micro-organismswhich break down organic matter in to a form that can be up taken by plants. To get the best out of clay soil, it is very important to work the soil to improve drainage and aeration.
Chalk Based Soils:
Like sand based soils, nutrients leach through this soil type very easily. In the high of summer and during periods of drought, excessive watering is needed. Alkaline loving plants thrive in chalk based soils but acidic loving plants like azaleas do not do well at all.
Acidic and Alkaline Soils:
The PH of a soil is highly important, different plants require different amounts of elements and trace elements and the elements they can up-take is determined by the PH of the soil. The optimum PH for most plants is 6.5 PH, at this reading most elements are easily up-taken by a plant. Although towards the end of a season when plants flower of fruit, they often require PH levels to drop slightly. Acidic soils can be changed by adding lime which is available from most garden centres. Peat can be added to alkaline in soils to make it more acidic.
Living soil is good soil which is rich in organic matter, this soil contains bacteria and micro-organisms which breakdown dead leaves and other organic matter into vital nutrients which plants can absorb. The presence of earth worms is also a good sign as they aerate the soil and pull organic matter downwards which conditions the soil.
Working the ground with a spade or fork is a good way of aerating water logged or compact soil, if done on a commercial basis machines can be used to do this. Double digging bedding areas annually at the end of a season is a good way of ensuring good soil for the following year.
Adding organic materials like manure or compost will aerate soil and improve its texture; this also helps to retain moisture so that plants can grow better. Compost is easily made and you can create it yourself from tea bags, old leafs and vegetable peelings. Ideally you want to create your own compost heap and leave it for about several months to break down. When it’s ready you will have a nice dressing for whatever requirements you need.
Soil Testing Kits:
You can test soil PH balances with a simple soil testing kit. Simply add a small drop of the chemical to the soil and it will produce a liquid which can be matched against the colour chart provided with the testing kit. This will tell you the acidity or alkalinity of the soil and also indicate the presence of key nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen.
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