Garden Soil – Identify your Soil then Improve it.

Dirt is dirt right? No!

In my area dirt is that over used, sandy or rocky soil that lies along the road. But dirt can be turned into soil that will grow crops and flowers very easily.

First you need to know what you are working with so that you can improve your growing soil.

There are three basic types of soil: clay, sandy and loam. Once you identify your soil you can add nutrients if needed and properly fertilize and water your gardens and lawns. Instead of just assuming that you have a certain type of soil, perform a soil test so that you know for sure what kind of soil you have.

One simple test will help you know more about your garden soil.

Place 21 oz. of tap water in a jar.  Add 1 tsp. of water softening powder to the water. Put the lid on the jar and shake it until the powder is completely dissolved.
Next add enough soil so that the water reaches the top of the jar. Put the lid on the jar and shake until the soil breaks down into small particles.

Set the jar on a level surface. The soil will settle to the bottom of the jar according to what is in the soil. Sand being the heaviest part of soil will fall to the bottom. Silt will be the next layer and then the clay particles will settle on top.

When the layers have separated and the water that rises to the top is somewhat clear it time to check the layers.

If the soil layers are equal in size your soil is considered to be loamy. Loamy soil is considered to be the best garden soil for planting.

Check to see if either the clay layer or the sandy layer is thicker than the other layers. If the clay layer is thicker, your soil is considered to be heavy or clay-like. If the sandy layer is thicker, your soil is considered light or sandy. Both these soil types will have drainage problems and will need treatment for getting the best plant growth and health.

By working organic matter into your light or heavy soil you will improve its consistency. Peat moss and/or compost will provide essential vitamins and minerals to the soil, which will help plants to grow in these types of soil.

I have heavy clay and rock in my Zone 5 growing area. It has wonderful nutrients but because of the clay I have to work a lot of compost into any new garden. I also remove a lot of rocks!

With a little added compost and a soils test for nutrients almost any soil can be great for growing plants. But it is important to know your soil and improve its growing abilities. It makes for a fun successful garden.

Tags: improving soil, building better soil, simple soil test, 3 basic soil types

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One response to “Garden Soil – Identify your Soil then Improve it.”

  1. Denise

    You can also do an initial test by taking a small piece of moist soil and rolling it in your fingers. If you have clay soil, you will be able to easily roll the soil into a ball; if you have sandy soil, the soil will fall apart immediately as you try to roll it; and if you have loam soil, a ball will start to form, but slowly fall apart as you roll the soil sample.

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