Its Our Garden The Importance Of-Soil/Part 1 - (1)

By Elkabeth and Crow Miller

Knowing And Building Your Soil

What kind of soil do you have in your garden ? What kind of soil is best for your farm, garden, lawn, or landscape project ? These questions are important because different crops have different soil preferences. For example; asparagus likes sandy loams, while tomatoes prosper on silt and clay-loams. Rich clays produce heavy yields of turnips, while the cucurbit family seem to prefer loamy-sands.

Loamy soils can range from coarse-sandy-loams, through medium-sandy, fine-sandy, silty-loams and clay-loams. You will find that the thinner soils are best for early crops because they warm up more quickly, while the richer soils will produce more abundant, but later crops.

In the interest of early crops and a longer season, you'll tend to go slow at first with your applications of mulch and compost. But, as the season advances, you'll heap more and more compost and mulch in planting rows and beds for three good reasons: 1) to encourage and stimulate full, mature growth; 2) to conserve soil moisture and moderate soil temperature; 3) to add humus to the soil so that it approximates a good crumbly-loam, which is what most of your vegetables require.

Loam is soil that is composed of a friable mixture of clay, silt, sand and organic matter. The mixture of organic and mineral matter in a good loam should provide 50% solids, and 50% space between them. Ideally, the spaces would be filled with 50% water, and 50% air for the most productive plant growth.

Idea soil structure is granular with rounded bits or clusters of soil lying loose and readily shaken apart. The amounts of organic matter in loam range from just a trace to about 15%.

We feel, good loam should contain at lest 5% organic matter, which helps the soil retain moisture, while contributing to the continuous process of decomposition and growth which must go on in the soil.

Composting, growing cover crops and green manure crops to prevent loss of topsoil, opening up and aerating the subsoil with deep and widely reaching root systems, and supplying the soil with plenty of humus where it is needed. 2) Rotary tilling to aerate the topsoil, improve structure and also to incorporate humus, plant nutrients and organic fertilizers. 3) Liming to correct soil acidity (after you have had a complete soil test.) Note: Read Part 2/ Soil Testing.) to condition texture and structure, and to encourage microbial life; 4) Maintaining the idea carbon/ratio in the soil by incorporating plenty of nitrogenous materials to balance the carbon in mulches and crop residues. These 4-methods will help you to achieve good soil.

It's hard to beat compost as a source of sustained soil fertility, filth and structure because, just by itself it has all the elements needed. for a complete plant food. Note: read Part 3 / Composting, Building Healthy Soil) When you combine it with organic soil amendments, (Kelp, Fish Meal, Greensand, Bone Meal, Feather Meal, etc.) cover-crops and a green manure program.

While a cover-crop is grown chiefly to prevent or reduce erosion, the green manure crops ( Buckwheat/spring, Oats/summer and Rye/fall) improve soil quality when they are tilled under. The advantages of growing protective, soil-replenishing crops on farms, and gardens are obvious. 1) time and labor of hauling and spreading are saved. 2) the deep, widely spreading root systems open up the soil, making it more permeable. 3) the decomposing residues of the roots further serve as nutrients for the succeeding main crops.

For the organic farmer there is disking, and rotary tilling is practiced by many landscapers and organic gardeners to improve soil filth and structure by incorporating humus and compost in the top layer while they build fertility. Sick, unbalanced soil lacks organic matter, aeration and physical condition. The corrective steps that we recommend is to aerate by tilling, improve with compost and bone meal, sweeten with lime if needed, and give mulch protection.

Mere spading does little good if the soil is massive, because the soil particles will settle back together when the soil is wet again with the deeper layers heavily pressed by the weiqht of the ones above them.

Besides spading, it is necessary to add abundant organic matter and soil amendments for good structure and adequate nutrition of deep-rooted plants. Once you have well-drained soil, its organisms are enabled to decompose organic matter to produce compounds that lead to natural soil geanulation.

When tilling, digging. or subsoiling, don't remove all or most of

the stones you uncover. The reason for this is plain; stones act as moderating influences on the soil. In summer, they help keep it cool; in winter they help heat it up. They are sources of trace elements which they contribute steadily over the years and encourage symbiotic soil relationships.

Some form of organic nitrogen (N); soybean meal, alfalfa meal, fish meal, feather meal and cottonseed meal are all fine, and should be added with the lime, or you will have a nitrogen (N) deficiency because liming stimulates soil microbial life by breaking down the humus present. The bacteria that go to work on the humus needs more nitrogen (N) and will take it from the soil if you don't give it to them.

We cure sour soil by adding lime in the form of ground limestone, wood ashes are also good, and using plenty of compost and mulch. Organic soil retains moisture perfectly, and thus prevents the leaching out of lime

Most plant residues which go into the soil are 50-parts carbon to

one part nitrogen. The ideal carbon/nitrogen ratio is 15 to 30-parts to

one of nitrogen. Very little of this soil nitrogen is used to make plant

tissue, which is largely dependent on photosynthesis for its growth.

But the C/N ratio of crop residues tilled back into the soil directly

affects the vigor and size of its bacterial population which needs the

nitrogen to build cell tissue. When you add crop resifues to the soil,

be sure to include extra nitrogen. Otherwise you will have a soil (N)

deficiency because the bacteria which break down the residues need the

extra (N) for energy.

We must remember, soil is a living, breathing organism, it must be feed

a balanced healthy diet.

Copyright · 1996 / Crow Miller, Syndication/Magazine/ The soil/#74/on Line/