Find the dirt on your garden soil

Corvalis, ore – a simple formula – If you want to grow better plants, you first need to understand the soil.

“Soil texture is the amount of sand, silt, and clay,” says James Cassidi, a soil professor at Oregon State University. “The texture determines the amount of water that can hold the soil, the erosion capacity, and even the amount of nutrients that can be stored.

He recommends using a “hand-me-down” technique to get acquainted with the texture of your soil. Depending on how much relay you use, dig 6 to 8 inches above the top of the organic material into the mineral soil. Take a handful of moist soil and dip it into a ball. Add water if necessary. If it can be made into ribbon, you have a high clay content. The clay content is equal to the length of the ribbon you can make. Each inch of ribbon is equal to 10 percent clay.

So, if you have a 4-inch ribbon, the soil can be up to 40 percent clay. If you feel irritated on the palms of your hands after overeating, you have sandy soil. The rest is sediment content.

When people talk about “good loam,” they are referring to the texture of the soil.

“Lom means you have approximately equal parts of sand, silt and clay,” he said. “If you have sand, it has a little more sand in it. Sediment sediment has a small amount of sediment in it. Clay contains more clay. ”

He said the soil should be able to hold some water, but the roots of plants could not breathe. The cow meets that balance.

Clay gets a bad rap because it means too much water and the soil is wet, cold and hard to work with. But do not be too quick to judge in the mud.

“To protect clay, clay is a storehouse of nutrients,” says Cassidy. “Sand and silt do not store nutrients; They are just stones. ”

Many Wilmett Valley gardeners, on the other hand, have to overcome the annual challenges of clay soils.

“The answer is an increase in organic matter,” Cassidi said.

The key is to plant cover crops from mid-August to mid-September. Plant a mixture of annual rye grass or winter wheat and grasses such as Austrian field peas or fava beans. As soon as flowering begins, cut down the cover crops before planting. Rotate the rest to the ground again, and then mix it back into the soil.

When you first plan your plot until it is easier with gardening. Cassidi advises not to use rototillers in the garden. Rototling can break large holes in the soil structure, which is the key to water theft and drainage.

“Think of the small field,” he said. If the soil is slightly swollen, spread a high quality fertilizer layer over it and it will be fine.

But if farming seems like the only option, do it when the soil is ready, not when it’s convenient for you, Cassidy advises. Wait for the soil to get the right moisture. If a handful of soil is compressed and hard to break, it is too dry to plow. It is good to correct cracks in the hand when squeezing.

Add organic matter every year and in about five years you will build healthy soil with improved drainage – along with heavy clay soils.

“There are one billion microorganisms in a single soil, and all of them must be eaten,” said Cassidy, who teaches at the US College of Agricultural Sciences. They are not photosynthetic like plants, but they need energy and that is from organic matter. They use energy better in well-drained soils with organic matter.

For more information, Cassidy recommends exploring online soil maps at the University of California, Davis.

This tool allows you to enter an address, zip code, city or state in the United States to get details of the location map and soil type. You can also download the free app for iPhone and Android smartphones.

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