SOIL AND THE INTRODUCTION
The subject of soil in gardening is not one of the most exciting topics however I feel it needs to be addressed. I will cover in detail the handling of both clay and sandy soil including some charts to asssist you in the decision making of what to plant in the way of flowers,shrubs and trees. Keep in mind that these charts are not all inclusive but have been constructed along the lines of the most popular plants and shrubs. There are other possibilites but this could become a rambling page and much much too long.
TYPES OF SOIL
Soil can be identified in about six types. Some of these types have been treated with various nutrients to obtain their label.
is actually noted to be one of the most fertile. It is made up of minerals including a predominance of quartz and other organically fine particles. It contains more nutrients than does the sandy type but still can provide excellent drainage. It appears as dark sand when dry with a rather even surface. The silty soil has a weak structure which makes it easier to turn when it is moist and it also maintains the moisture well. Silt type deposits are mainly found along river banks such as the Missippi River,the Nile river,and the delta of New Orleans.
is thought of as the perfect soil. This type is a combined mixture of approximately 40% sand,40% silt,and 20% clay. The workability can go from easy because of the large amount of organic substance to a dense packed one. This type seems to drain well but retains its moisture and still rich in nutrients which makes it excellent for cultivating. It would be good if you have access to a river or stream to acquire the silt necessary. However in this day and age I am sure this soil can be purchased at your local garden center.
contains plus more organic material than others in these classifications. It does not have as many nutrients and retains too much water. The use of a good fertilizer and watching the drainage problem can result in some great plant growth. This fertilizer,in order to produce the proper nutrients,should include nitrogen,phosphorus,potassium,and lime. This type of soil is prevalent in Ireland ,Canada,Michigan,and swampy parts of Florida to name a few. I would check with your local nursery to determine the correct applications.
is alkaline and light brown in color. It usually contains large amounts of stone in many sizes and shapes. This type dries quickly during the summer season and can block trace elements like iron and magananese making it difficult for plants to absorb any of these elements. This will result in poor growth stimulation and often times appears as yellowing leaves. It is very poor quality and requires large amounts of fertilizers and other things to the improve the soil.
I have covered several types of soil that defintely need more research to determine the type of plants that can be grown in these situtions. I want to cover in more substantial detail the handling of clay and sandy soils since they are more prevalent in most areas.
MY SOIL IS CLAY OH WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO GROW
It is spring time and the air is smelling so good. I head out for the garden feeling really charged and ready for the beginning season. I shove or attempt to shove my shovel into the earth to turn it over. After several attempts,the shovel emerges with wet sticky mud attached and suddenly the shovel weighs five pound more. You have discover it and the clay is back and just waiting for you to attempt to work it. It also can vary in your garden from a few inches deep to over a foot deep. This is how my garden was designed by mother nature.
You have several options when dealing with clay. The first is to amend the clay because there maybe plants you would like to grow but have discovered fail to survive in clay.Let's take the route of amending keeping in mind it takes a lot of the correct applications to improve the clay. If you are just going to amend a small area by dumping a few bags of manure or sand,then you are asking for continued trouble. The amending of a small area results in those plants,you spent a reasonable amount of cash on,having a very hard time moving from the amended area into strictly clay. This will indeed limit their growth.
I would use coarse sand and coarse organic matter. The coarse sand is referred to as builders sand. Please do not use fine sand that ends up in your sand box this could actually make your problem worse. The particles in coarse sand are large in comparison to the fine sand.As for the organic matter required,avoid fine textured peat moss and those manures that come in packages. The actual type needed is compost. If you have a composter in your yard,use this material to amend the soil. It is resistant to decomposition and continue addition of this material over a period of time will increase the humic matter content.
A word of caution should be noted here NEVER WORK CLAY WHEN IT IS WET.This can result in some huge clods which may require the employment of an elephant to get apart. The breaking up of about ten inches of this soil may necessitate the need of a mattock. If you do not know what this tool resembles,imagine a giant steel curved pick on a wooden handle. You really can not rototill it until this is accomplished or other wise your tiller could end up in a pile of sticky mud.
SOIL AMENDING HOW MUCH AND WITH WHAT?
It would be wise to measure the area that is about to be amended. In case you have forgotten your high school math it would be length x width= square feet. It would be best to use equal parts of coarse sand and organic or composted matter. It will be necessary to cover the area with a three to four inch deep layer of compost and also sand. Please if the area is large do not go to the garden shop and purchase packaged material because you will only be able to cover at most a couple of square feet. It is time consuming and expensive. The garden shop may sell these items in bulk or you may need to go to a lumber yard to acquire the coarse sand in bulk. In the bulk state,this will probably be measured by the cubic yard. Yes a gardener sometimes requires a small amount of math and in this a cubic yard is equal to 27 cubic feet.
The gardening rule to apply is one cubic yard will cover approximately 100 square feet with three inches of material. This sounds like a hugh amount of room but in reality is only a ten foot by ten foot area. I would begin by spreading the compost or organic material over the garden to a depth of six inches. Then spread the sand over the clay/organic mixture and mix it into the garden. At this point a tiller is the tool of choice,rent one if you do not own one otherwise you are in for some back breaking work. You should check the pH of your amended soil on some kind of scheduled basis since the compost or organic matter will decay and disappear from sight. The decaying matter will slowly add acidity to your garden turf the pH check is important for the continue growth of your plant choice. The use of worm castings will also enrich your soil see A 100% natural earthworm castings nature's most effective form of plant food.
Water Crystals will help nurture fuller, healthier plants, fruits, vegetables and lawns by providing a water supply near to plant roots. They'll store water before it percolates or evaporates, reducing watering frequency. They are used also to make neck coolers, cool ties, pads, hot/cold packs and a range of proprietary and decorative products.Water Crystals will provide the moisture control that growing plants need. They will preserve cut flowers longer than tap waterGo to water crystals and returned to here
SOIL AND YOUR SECOND OPTION
The easiest action to take after reading all of that,and feeling exhausted before you even begin,is to select plants,trees,vegetables,and shrubs that should I say thrive in this clay. .This is not to say you will not need to fertilize the clay but it should not require the same intense labor as described above. So without further ado,review charts for best plants,vegetables,and shrubs for clay soil
SOIL THE SANDY VARIETY BENEFITS AND DETRIMENTS
I can tell you the first benefit that pops right into my head is digging. The planting of anything in sand requires much less sweat and muscle than its counterpart.The other real benefit here is from the root crops like carrots or potatoes that grow much better in sand because of the difficult nature of the root plant attempting to push its way down in clay.
Water flows better in this type but it is not the only beneficial factor. The air circulation allows the penetration of warm air into the sandy mixture. This is particulary critical in the spring during the germination period of the seeds. It also assists in the continual breaking down of organic matter for the necessary nitrates to provide the plants with their required nutrition. This activity is best accomplished when sand is present as the main ingredient
The bad side has it own little problems in regard to water. The water penetrates rapidly but also races through the soil. This,of course,implies good drainage but leads to rapid drying of the ground. This causes you to provide additional water to your garden probably through a recommended soaker hose or garden sprinkler system which may not be necessary in the case of clay. The real problem,as I see it here,is the frequent watering results in the nutrients being washed from the garden area and now you have to reapply the nutrients more often then necessary under other conditions. This is why we have to amend the sandy soil with materials that aid the keeping of both water and nutrients in your garden.
SOIL AMENDMENTS REQUIRED TO BOLSTER THE SAND IN YOUR GARDEN
Now you are going to laugh at me as to the ingredients that need be applied. The addition of clay or silt to hold your nutrients in the earth. I think the silt application would be extremely difficult in most areas and would cost more in the long run. You would otherwise need to find a local source of clay and do the bull work to get this transported into your garden.There is the problem of living in an area where clay from any source may not be readily available. Purchase some topsoil from your local garden shop,but a word of caution here,check the bags. This material could also be sandy even though it is advertise as loamy.
Now after all those considerations,the best way is with the use of organic material such as composted manure,leaf mold,homemade compost,or even seaweed if available. You will require large amounts of any organic material so make sure it is one that is readily available and you do not have to put your family out as indentured slaves to pay for it.
Manure is a most excellent addition to your soil but it should be aged before application.Fresh manure can be too powerful and can burn the roots of your plants. This will cause a space requirement and maybe very tolerant neighbors if you live in close quarters but you can establish two bins of manure. The one is mellowing for six months and the other can be used immediately for the garden. This of course takes some think ahead planning.
A much easier method is to buy it from your favorite garden center already bagged. I can assure you this will be more costly than a bulk truckload but it may save you from a lot of grief in more ways than one. All I can say here is whatever you decide it requires copious amounts.It is hard to give a specific answer because how sandy is sandy? In other words you will have to work into a loamy state as defined earlier on this page. You can substitute peat moss for the silt as long as you remember that it comes in a dry compressed state and it is not easy to saturate.
SOIL FERTILIZING AND MULCH
The problem here is the sandy type just will not hold nutrients as mentioned before. The nitrogen has a tendency to leach quickly especially with the frequent watering necessary for this type of environment. A good fertilizer contains nitrogen,phosphorus,and potassium. This translates to NPK on the bag and associated numbers. The best is 10-10-10 and should be applied to your garden in early spring. It is necessary to always water the plants being fertilized both before and after application. These are your chemical fertilizers but now you can also purchase organic fertilizer which does release the nutrients at a slower pace. These add organic materials to the garden and sandy means it can use all the organics that can be fed. This type of garden makeup may result in an additional feed in midseason with a liquid fertilizer. The liquid feed can be produced from any instant-mix chemical or today you can purchase a liquid mix ready to attach to your hose.
The mulch cover is essential to this type of soil. It helps with weeds but in the case of sand it enables the garden to hold the moisture where it is needed. This type of gardening really requires the need for an organic mulch because of the stablization of the nutrient problem. Besides the commerical mulch that can be purchased,grass clippings are good source of nitrogen and are excellent for your vegetable garden. You do have to watch the clover or weed seeds that are sometimes mixed in the grass clippings. Hay and straw are excellent for the garden just be sure the product is not full of seed heads. This can cause a weed problem which you do not need. Hay can be applied in dense layers of eight to ten inches or in less dense amounts of three inches. This can remain permanently and be worked into the garden in the fall. There are many other things that can be used such as newspaper but no color inserts,peanut hulls.corncobs,and they all make good mulch.
How much mulch should be applied?
It should cover all of your bare garden but stay away from around the stems of the plants it can and does encourage both rot and fungi to grow. Leave at least a four to six inch space between your trees and shrubs and two to three inches between annual and perennials. The material should be spread at a depth of three inches. Just make sure you do not use heavily based carbon materials as mulch such as whole leaves. This can be solved,if you are using commerical mulch,by applying a organic source of nitrogen first such as a thin layer of grass clippings.okay so what kind of plants,trees,shrubs,and vegetables should I use in this type of soil? I have a list in chart form of the best plants,vegetables,and shrubs for sandy groundl just click on it.