Tuesday , December 12 2017
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Garden Soils

Most of the time when we talk about our garden we mention the plants or the structures that we have in our garden, and almost never about the most important thing that make our garden exist: the soil. Soils are highly complex and dynamic materials that are made up of particles of weathered rock and organic matter, also known as humus, as well as plant and animal life.
For a successful development of our plants we need a healthy soil. The soil is the support and the supplier of food for our plants so it has to be in perfect condition in order to be able to offer the water, air and mineral nutrients to the plants that we grow in our garden.
Not every garden has the ideal soil but we can always improve the quality of our garden soil. There are many solutions that require little time and effort and can help us to bring the soil to a better condition. And there is always a second choice. Growing plants in containers is the best solution where the soil is in such a  bad condition that don’t worth the effort to try to improve it. When you grow plant in containers you can always choose the right soil for every plant.

Mulches

In the garden, mulches are used to improve plant growth. They regulate soil temperature by keeping plant roots warm in winter and cool in summer, they reduce water loss from the soil surface around the plants and they help to discourage weed seeds from germinating by preventing light from reaching them. This is done with organic and inorganic mulches. The mulch should be spread around a small or medium-sized plant to the full extent of the foliage canopy.

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Watering Techniques

The purpose of watering is to recharge the soil with water so that reserves will be sufficient to last until the next watering or rainfall. Make sure you always water thoroughly so that water is available deep in the soil. Frequently applying a little water is of limited value because most of it evaporates off the soil surface before it has a chance to penetrate down to the roots of plants. Also do not water plants at a rate that causes puddling on the soil surface. This will lead to run-off and erode the soil.

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Testing Soil pH

take-soil-sample image

The soil in your garden can be acid, alkaline or neutral, depending on the amount of lime that is contained in it. The lime content from your soil will influence the range of plants that can be grown in it as well as the fertility of the soil. So is important to find out the pH value of your soil before adding plants to it. Some plants prefer alkaline soil while other will grow well in acid soil, but there are others that cannot tolerate high lime content and will die. Test your soil before planting and save this way time and money.

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Soil Water

For a good development plants need water. Most plants grow well in a soil that is described as both moist and well drained. This kind of soil is a well-structured soil where water is held in fine capillary pores, which are usually less than 0.1 mm in diameter, with air in the larger pores. Water is most readily available to plants from pores of he largest diameter. As the pores become smaller, it becomes increasingly difficult for the plants to extract moisture, which means that some soil water always remains unavailable.

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Soil Organisms

earthworm image

In order to maintain soil fertility, certain soil organisms are essential. Those are the beneficial organisms and their presence in the soil is a must in order to keep our garden soil in best condition. Beneficial bacteria and fungi prefer well-aerated and acidic soils but will generally tolerate a wide pH. Some fungi, for example mycorrhizae - are able to live symbiotically with living plants, creating a relationship that is beneficial to both, helping plants roots by improving the take-up of nutrients from the soil.

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Soil Nutrients

The nutrients from the soil that plants are using to make food and help them grow are composed of mineral ions, absorbed in solution from the soil through the roots and used with carbon dioxide and water. The mineral nutrients are divided into two groups: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients, required in relatively large amounts, include: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca) and sulphur (S). They are usually lacking from the soil, mainly because plants are using them in large amounts for their growth and survival. Micronutrients are equally important but they are required only in small amounts. Micronutrients include: iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo) and chlorine (Cl). Recycling grass clippings and tree leaves is an excellent way to provide nutrients to your garden plants.

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Acidity and Alkalinity

Soil pH is a measurement of acidity or alkalinity of the soil on a scale that ranges from 1 to 14. An acid soil will have a pH value below 7 and an alkaline soil will have the pH value higher than 7. A soil that has the value of pH 7 is a neutral soil.

Usually, the pH value of the soil is controlled by its calcium levels. Calcium is an alkaline element that is contained in any soil. Soils with high levels of calcium, like chalk or limestone soils, are alkaline. Calcium is washed from soil in time by water and the soils that have low levels of calcium, like sandy soils, become acidic. You can control soil alkalinity by liming or adding lime-rich elements into the soil, like mushroom compost.

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Soil Types by Structure

Soils are classified according to their clay, silt and sand content. The size and proportion of these mineral particles affects the chemical and physical behavior of the soil. The main categories of the soil are: loam, clay, sandy, silt, organic or peat, chalk or limestone soils. Most garden soils are combinations of several of these types and it can vary in different parts of the garden, so is possible that your garden will have different type of soil in different places.

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