Foundation For Your Garden: Soil Series

Foundation . . . . Stop and really think about this for a moment. The official definition found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is:

1 : the act of founding 2 : a basis (as a tenet, principle, or axiom) upon which something stands or is supported 3 : funds given for the permanent support of an institution : endowment 4 : an underlying base or support; 5 : a body or ground upon which something is built up or overlaid

A basis upon which something stands or is support are the key words.    The main support of any garden begins with the soil.  It is imperative to start with a healthy organic soil.  You may or may not have health soil, however it is never too late to begin building a healthy soil.  Start today.  Make a commitment to Mother Earth to take care of this precious foundation.    Having a basic understanding of the soil structure, texture, and the nutrients it provides for plants is a good place to start.

Soil Composition:

  • Mineral Matter: Sand, silt, and clay or nonliving material from rock
  • Microbes: Bacteria, fungi, and algae
  • Animals: Worms, insects, snakes, mammals
  • Organic Matter: Decaying matter that was once alive (plants, animals, and microbes)
  • Pore Space:  Open spaces occupied by air or water.

An ideal garden soil contains 45% mineral, 30% water, 20% air and 5% organic matter.

Soil Structure:

  • Influences air and water movement within soil
  • Crumbs or granular structures are most desirable types
  • Good structure allows water and air movement and water retention
  • Poor structure restricts root growth and water movement

Soil Texture:

  • Size of soil particles and relative percentage of each in the soil
  • Influences the water holding capacity, infiltration, ease of tillage, seedbed preparation, and soil nutrient holding capacity
  • Sand is the largest particle, and is gritty
  • Silt particles are smaller and give a smooth feel to the soil
  • Clay particles are tiny and can be seen with a microscope.  They are the sticky material in moist soil.
  • Estimate texture with moist soil.  Form a small ball, then try to press some through your thumb and forefinger.

Water:

  • Important in soil formation
  • Solvent for many nutrients in the soil
  • Loamy soil will have 2.5 times the available water as sandy
  • Too much water in the soil will cause plants to suffocate from lack of air
  • Any organic matter increases the water holding capacity of soil

Go out grab a shovel and inspect your soil.   Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are there any earthworms and other soil life?
  • What color is my soil?  Rich soil high in organic matter will be dark in color.
  • How quickly does the soil dry out?

Learning about soil is a huge undertaking, but extremely important.     You cannot skip the foundation and expect to have an amazing garden.    Once you have an understanding of soil, you will look at soil totally different.  You will not take it for granted and expect it to produce without giving it something in return.

City Girl Gardener