How do you take care of your soil? In this video, we show you how to determine the soil type of your garden and how to make your soil healthy and productive. Yes, any soil type can be improved!
Types of Soil
Understanding your soil means that you can work to improve it, ensuring even better harvests.
Most soils are one of four types: sand, silt, clay, or loam:
Sand: Sandy soils have a gritty texture and drain quickly of both water and nutrients. However, they are light to work with and are quick to warm up in spring.
Silt: Silt soils have a slightly slippery, silky feel. Silt soils retain moisture and nutrients for longer than sand.
Clay: Clay soils are heavy, smooth to the touch, and can be rolled into a ball that holds together easily. They are slow to absorb moisture and to drain, which means they can become rock-hard in dry periods then waterlogged during wet spells. They are very fertile however.
Loam: Loam is ideal for growing most fruits and vegetables. It’s a balance of all the other soil types; fertile, free-draining, easy to work and rich in organic matter.
Improving Your Soil
Whichever type of soil you have, it can be improved by adding organic matter such as well-rotted, weed-free compost or farmyard manure.
Adding organic matter will improve both soil structure and nutrient content. It will help sandy soil to retain moisture and nutrients, and help heavy clay soils to drain more easily.
How to Add Organic Matter
The end of the growing season is an especially good time to add organic matter. Spread it at least two inches deep on vacant ground, or around fruit trees and bushes and perennial vegetables such as artichokes. There’s no need to dig it in; the worms will incorporate it for you. Any that remains on the surface in spring can be forked in a few weeks before sowing or planting.
Testing Soil pH
Finding out your soil’s pH will help you to decide what to grow in it and how to amend it if necessary. Use a pH test kit, and for best results test the pH from different parts of your garden so you know if it varies.
You can then decide which areas to improve. For example, add garden lime for cabbage family plants to make the soil more alkaline. Adding organic matter will usually move the pH towards a level ideal for most fruits and vegetables.
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