Your soil is one of the most important factors in successful landscaping and gardening.
your soil condition is a critical step before preparing your beds and
planting plants. The following are some things to consider:
is a mixture of mineral particles and various types of organic and
inorganic material. The size of those mineral particles determines the
soil's physical category: clay, sand or loam.
You'll want to know what makes up your soil, so you can prevent problems.
soil testing lab will tell you what kind of soil you have. But here's a
simple test that'll give you some idea: When it's wet, loam will form a
lump when you squeeze it and it will crumble easily into small clumps.
Wet clay forms a hard lump that won't break up, and wet sand won't lump
have poor drainage with clay soil. Its tiny particles bind together
when wet and keep water from draining properly. Plants in clay get too
much water and too little air to thrive, and their roots have trouble
penetrating the soil. Organic amendments will improve clay soils.
soils consist of larger particles, which create a porous mix and allow
water to drain through too quickly. Plants rooted in it have trouble
absorbing water. Organic amendments will also help with this type of
ideal growth soil is a combination of large and small particles known
as loam. It holds water long enough for thirsty plants while safely
draining away the excess.
Sand or clay soils can be improved with applications of organic matter in the spring (compost, peat moss, or dried manure), but they should be dug into the soil a foot or more deep to really aerate the soil properly.
It's best to have your soil tested before you start planting to see what nutrients it might be lacking.
should be able to find labs in your area to do a test for a nominal
fee. Your local nursery or County Extension Office will point you in
the right direction. You can also buy a kit and do the test yourself.
will indicate which of the crucial elements for plant growth your
soil's lacking; chiefly nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. You can
add fertilizers to help overcome any deficiencies.
soil test will also give you the ph level, which indicates the amount
of acid in the soil. Some plants need high amounts of acid. Others need
more alkaline soil. If it's too acidic, you can add lime to balance it.
If it needs more acidity, you can add aluminum sulfate or ammonium
sulfate to it.
Adding Organic Amendments
amendments like peat moss, manure or compost, will loosen up your soil
and promote good drainage. They also improve the ability of the soil to
deliver nutrients to the roots.
best to dig in your amendments in the spring before planting. Then
roto-till the soil to fluff it up and make plant growth easier.
organic amendments to your soil will have long term benefits. In fact,
the first few years you may not notice dramatic results. After the
amendments have a chance to break down you should see the soil become
darker, easier to work with, and require less watering.
same type of amendments (peat moss, manure, compost) will help either
thicken sandy soils and thin out clay. Manure even has small amounts of
should get regular doses of fertilizer to keep producing. That's
because plants, rain and wind remove a lot of nutrients over time.
come in both inorganic and organic forms. They both provide the same
essential nutrients that your grass or plants need to grow properly:
Nitrogen helps plants produce strong stems and healthy green leaves.
Phosphorous is crucial for flowering and fruiting plants.
Potassium promotes the development of healthy roots and stems.
the labels of fertilizers for the numbers indicating the ratio of
nutrients. A label with 10-10-10 means it's got ten percent nitrogen,
ten percent phosphorous and ten percent potassium. So every 10 pounds
of it puts a pound of each element in the soil.
Use a fertilizer with the right combination of nutrients to supplement the specific deficiencies of your soil.
are advantages and disadvantages to both chemical and organic
fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers work faster and can be applied in the
balance of nutrients your garden or lawn
needs. They are less expensive than commercial organic fertilizers and
can be applied in concentrated amounts. However, they can be harmful to
the environment, and can kill the plants if applied incorrectly.
fertilizers are slower, but longer lasting than chemical fertilizers.
They actually build up the nutrients and earthworms in the soil so that
fertilizing won't be needed as much in the future. However, they don't
contain the balanced mix of nutrients that chemicals do.
is another environmental problem which comes from the use of any
fertilizer. That's the potential for causing pollution by running off
into lakes, streams and ground water.
avoid creating runoff, don't apply fertilizer just before a heavy rain
because it'll wash it away. Also, don't let the fertilizer get on hard
surfaces like driveways and sidewalks where it can get swept into storm
sewers, and from there, into lakes and streams.
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