Thursday, May 24, 2012

Soil is the Soul of your Garden

Organic gardeners and farmers know that the organisms that live in a well-balanced soil are the very heart of that soil. The ideal is a loamy soil, a mixture of sand, silt, clay and decaying organic material. The presence of decaying organic material is an indicator that the soil is healthy and rich and has great potential for supporting plants.

Most of us have soil that is too sandy, has too much clay, is too acidic or too alkaline - the list is long and varies dependant on where you live. There are many things that you can do to improve the quality of your soil and the first step is to determine what type of soil you have and its general health.

Sandy, Clay or Loam?

If your soil is too sandy, you probably have a problem with retention of water and nutrients. Soil that has too much clay is dense and heavy because it is composed of particles that are small and bind tightly together. Clay soil can be difficult for healthy root structure and growth. A quick way to test which type of soil you have is to take a handful of moistened soil in your hand and squeeze. If the soil binds together you have too much clay. If the soil falls apart as soon as you open your fist, you have too much sand. If your soil holds together but does not clump you may be fortunate enough to have loamy soil.

The easiest and most important way to improve or maintain any soil type is by using compost. Adding
compost can help these specific soil problems:
  • The addition of compost to sandy soil will help bind loose particles together to increase the ability of the soil to retain water and nutrients.  
  • By adding compost to clay soil, you help to form larger soil particles as the compost will bind with the clay – this will increase the air space around the particles allowing for better drainage and air movement.  
  • Annual applications of compost to any type of soil add life and vitality as well as essential nutrients.
How Healthy is Your Soil?
To find out if your soil has good nutrient value it is best to start with the basics.
  • Determine whether your soil has the basic nutrient components of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash.
  • Determine the pH level of your soil. pH tests indicate the soil’s acid and alkaline levels.

ARBICO Organics carries two easy-to-use soil test kits. The Rapitest Kit includes enough materials to perform 10 tests for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. The LaMotte Garden Soil Test Kit features a rapid test procedure and comes with diagrammed instructions and enough material to perform 30 pH tests and 15 tests for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

Once you have the results of your soil test, ARBICO Organics has a wide variety of products to make your soil healthier and more productive. Take a look at our easy-to-use soil solutions guide that tells you what soil amendments or supplements we recommend to help improve your soil and your garden.

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