Gardening Guide to Growing Organic Vegetables, Herbs And Fruit

Types of Soil

Types of Soil

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Soils are classified by the size of their particles. Generally, they range from coarse to fine or from light to heavy. Here are some soil types:

Type and characteristics
sandy: Easliy tilled
Sandy loam: Well drained
Loam: Warms quickly Poor nutrient retention
Silty loam: Hard to work
Clay loam: Slow drainage-great moisture retention
Clay: Warms slowly Excellent nutrient retention

The coarser the soil, the earlier it warms in the spring and the earlier it can be worked. Coarse particles of sand retain less moisture than fine particles of clay. Coarse soils require less spring sunshine to reach a temperature suitable for seed germination.

Delay working the soil until it is dry enough so that a compressed ball of soil will break apart when dropped from the height of your hip. Soil that is worked when too moist forms compact clods and makes root growth difficult.

There are five primary types of soil: sand, clay, limestone, peat, and silt. The type of original rock and the mineral fragments’ size determines a soil’s type. It is imperative to have in depth knowledge of your garden’s soil because this knowledge allows you to know exactly what you will be dealing with when gardening because your cultivations, their size, type and planting timing largely depends on the soil’s nature and type.

Ideally, a soil should have a fine crumbly structure, be rich in organic matter, drain excellently so the topsoil does not waterlog when it rains heavily, and should provide all the necessary nutrients required for the healthy growth of the produce you cultivate.

Achieving ideal soil conditions is not easily possible. The different types of soils we shall discuss below have their own set of pros and cons. Nevertheless, as we progress, you will learn how to improve your soil and improve your produce’s quality.

1: Clay

Although clay usually presents tons of produce growing problems, working a little on it, and carrying out good soil management can help you achieve great results. Clay is not very easy to work with during the initial cultivation phases.

When wet, it turns into a mess, and when it starts drying, it turns concrete hard. In addition, clay drains badly, and is heavy and cold. Despite that, you can improve its structure; if you properly work on it, you can make it capable of producing crops better than those grown on sandy soil can.

How to Prepare Clay Soil for Planting

Let us discuss the different factors involved in preparing clay soil.

Digging

It is best to dig clay in the autumn; either after it has rained a little so that the clay has softened a bit, or when the soil is drying so you can easily dig it before it turns into a mass of hard soil. If you live in a temperate climate region, you can easily accomplish this goal. However, if your area has a dry climate, closely monitor the weather forecast to determine when to dig.

After digging the soil, leave its surface a little uneven and rough throughout winter season so that the surface gets exposure to different nutrients. You can easily work all the organic matter into the soil’s upper levels during this period.

Drainage

Flocculation is a viable process you can use to combine clay’s particles. If you add a good amount of lime to clay soil, the clay particles will start binding to form bigger crumbs that will enable water, plant roots, and air to pass through them easily.

Check the needs of the produce you aim to grow; this will help you know how much lime you should add to your clayey soil. If your clayey soil is incredibly heavy, dig bristly grit into it, use about one to two bucketfuls of lime for each yard to make the soil light. In addition, raise a portion of the soil above its surroundings, so its drainage enhances substantially. To enable the soil dry out easily and then warm up, raise your ornamental beds a little and then grow your crops on its deep-bed system. Make sure never to treat clayey soil when it is wet; if you do, you will end up destroying all your hard work. To walk on it, lay a few boards on it.

Organic Matter

Adding a decent quantity of heavy organic matter to your clayey soil will allow it to hold all the soil particles apart and allow the water and roots to pass through it effortlessly. Your clayey soil will become quite easier to manage after a couple of years when its organic matter level rises and the clay becomes full of roots of the previously grown crops.

2: Silt

The major issue with silt soil is drainage. Silt has small particles that cause poor drainage because they pack together when wet, which prevents the free movement of air and water through the soil. Additionally, there is the risk of soil settling deep down to create a big airless mass. However, you can manage silt well by following the advice given below.

How to Care Prepare Silt Soil

If your patch has silt soil, do the following:

Digging

Dig silt only when the soil becomes sufficiently dry so it does not stick to your gardening boots. Digging it in autumn is a good idea because at this time, silt breaks easily. Silt expands as well as contracts when it becomes wet and then dries out; therefore, it is best to dig it in autumn.

Drainage

To improve silt’s drainage, physically force the soil particles apart to enable roots, water, and air to move around easily. You can manage this by digging in about two buckets of coarse raw grit into every yard of the soil while adding in organic matter. To improve the soil’s drainage, raise the ornamental beds and grow veggies on its deep-bed system.

Organic Matter

Silt has a unique structure that improves greatly when you add manure or well-rotted compost. To add organic matter, as well as remove the surface water, try keeping the soil properly covered with green-manure crop.

3: Sand

Sand is a light soil that offers good drainage and is easy to cultivate. This gives it an edge over the other soils that are not easy to work with. It warms up quite quickly too, which makes it the perfect soil for cultivating early crops. However, it has a drawback: It is a demanding and hungry soil. While you are getting an easy-to-work with soil, you would have to invest a lot in adding additional plant food and organic matter to it to keep it healthy. However, you need to take care of a few things when preparing sand.

How to Prepare Sand Soil for Planting

To prepare sandy soil and make it ideal for planting, here is what you should pay proper attention to:

Digging

You can cultivate sand whenever you want because you do not have to leave it rough in the winter season to allow the rain and frost to disintegrate the soil. The bigger sand particles make it convenient for you to cultivate it. Digging it in the spring season, a little prior to sowing the crop seeds is a good idea.

Drainage

Sandy soil tends to lose its water during the course of a year, both via free-draining and surface evaporation. This is not good for your crops. To prevent this problem, you should spread mulch or organic matter over your beds and in-between the plants as much as possible. This reduces the rate of evaporation and improves the soil structure.

Organic Matter

You can easily improve sandy soils by adding organic matter annually. Because the soil has a quick-draining ability, the organic materials will easily work their way down into its subsoil at a fast rate. Try maintaining a vegetation cover over its surface throughout the year, especially in the winters to prevent nutrients from leaching out of the soil.

4: Alkaline Soils/ Limestone

Limestone falls under the category of alkaline soils. There are primarily two major issues with alkaline soils. Firstly and most importantly, these soils are very thin, hungry, and dry. This is mainly due to the large soil particles that allow water to drain through them quickly, washing away all the plant minerals with it as well.

When dealing with this type of soil, you have to add plant nutrients, such as organic fertilizers to it. Secondly, their alkaline nature makes them unsuitable for a large number of crops. Let us find out how you can properly dig, drain, and add organic content to these soils.

Digging

Usually, you need not worry much about the cultivation timing. Like sand, alkaline soils are easy to work with even during winters. It is not necessary to keep limestone rough in the chilly winter season. Instead, you should dig the soil during the spring season a little time prior to sowing the plant seeds. Since the topsoil is not very deep, you should keep the digging shallow if your garden is small.

Drainage

These soils have good drainage; therefore, you need not worry about drainage when working with this type of soil.

Organic Matter

To keep the organic matter content of alkaline soils rich, keep it covered all year round. Grow green manure in it in winters and then dig the soil in the spring. To keep the soil well covered, it is a good idea to sow any fast-growing green manure crop in between the rows in the growing period. You should also add mulch or organic nutrients to it during the growing period. Acidic materials like grass cuttings, peat, manure, or compost work well with these soils because they neutralize their alkalinity.

5: Peat

Peat soils are great because they are very fertile and easy-to-work with; peat soils are great for growing flowers and bumper crops. If managed well, this soil is amazing, but like all the other soils we have discussed before, peat comes with its share of problems too.

These soils are acidic in nature; therefore, you need to apply a generous serving of lime to it to restore the soil’s pH balance. These soils also have a tendency to dry out rapidly when fully drained in hot weather. If you allow a peat soil to dry out completely, it will shrink and will not wet easily. To overcome this issue, hand watering, and a reliable irrigation system are essential during dry weather.

How to Prepare Peat Soil

Let us discuss peat’s soil digging, drainage, and organic matter requirements.

Digging

You can dig the soil at any time of the year. In addition, you need not leave it coarse in the winters.

Drainage

For proper drainage, you need to employ and effective drainage system because peat drains very poorly.

Organic Matter

Peat is composed largely of decomposed materials, which is why you need not add humus-forming materials in it. Its organic content is quite great, but mineral content is low, which is why you might need to add some fertilizers to it.

When preparing your patch, apply all the soil information detailed here to make your type of soil suitable to grow healthy crops. However, certain crops need special treatment to achieve proper growth even if the fertilizer and manure levels are good enough to begin with. This is why you must have proper knowledge of the basic fertilizers needed for the crops so you can produce your veggies, fruits, and herbs easily. The next chapter covers this aspect.