Guide to Prepare Garden SoilGuide to Prepare Garden Soil
The first step of gardening is soil preparation. Soil should be able to contain its moisture and nutrients while being balanced in its air and water ratio. The three soil types are clay, loam, and sand, subdivided into different forms, such as sandy loam, sandy clay loam, and clayey loam. These soil types can, in turn, be acidic or alkaline.
Whatever your soil type the additions of organic matter, often and generously, will improve it vastly.
To aid you in determining your soil type, roll moist soil into a sausage shape. Clay will bind far better than sand.
Alkalinity and acidity of soil are easiest analyzed with soil testing kits, available from most garden suppliers. The alkalinity or acidity is measured on a 1 – 10 pH scale. Ideally, your soil should be a neutral 7 pH, under pH5 is too acidic for good plant growth and above pH 8 is too alkaline. These pH levels influence plant growth and even color, as is seen with Hydrangeas.
For soils too alkaline apply ammonium sulfate but take care not to burn the plants.
For soils too acidic apply agricultural lime but determine first your desired pH level and the acidity level of your soil. Agricultural lime should be added systematically towards the desired pH level as over-liming is difficult to reverse.
Plants need certain macro- and microelements for ultimate growth performance. Deficiency symptoms, solutions for and the importance of these elements are listed below:
Nitrogen (N) Yellowing of foliage, usually first noticed on older leaves and purplish or blue tints are seen. Stunting and early dropping of autumn leaves. Nitrogen betters the plant’s usage of water. Solution: A spring application of 2:3:2 (22) at a rate of 120g p.m. ² on trees, shrubs, veggies, flowers, and lawns. 60g p.m. ² applications of 3:1:5 (26) SR with slow-release nitrogen, every 6 weeks during growing seasons for flowering plants. Alternatively apply 4:1:1 (21) at a rate of 60g p.m. ² during spring, summer and autumn.
Phosphorus (P) Yellowing and purplish, blue tints on older foliage. Stunting and poor branching are evident. Phosphorus is essential to all plants for cell division and photosynthesis. Solution: 60g p.m. ² of Superphosphate applied at the root level (Superphosphate does not travel through soil). Spring application of 2:3:2 (22) at a rate of 120g p.m. ² on trees, shrubs, veggies, flowers, and lawns. 60g p.m. ² applications of 3:1:5 (26) SR with slow-release nitrogen every 6 weeks during growing season used on flowering plants. Alternatively apply 4:1:1 (21) at a rate of 60g p.m. ² during spring, summer and autumn.
Potassium (K) Spots with a pale margin or burnt edging appear on the foliage, usually noticed on older leaves first and stems may be brittle. Too much potassium may result in toxic magnesium levels.
Potassium is essential to all fruiting- and flowering plants. Potassium helps protect plants against disease, improves it’s producing and transporting of carbohydrates, regulates stem growth- and salts of cell sap.
Solution: A spring application of 2:3:2 (22) at a rate of 120g p.m. ² on trees, shrubs, veggies, flowers, and lawns. 60g p.m. ² applications of 3:1:5 (26) SR with slow-release nitrogen every 6 weeks during growing seasons used on flowering plants. Alternatively apply 4:1:1 (21) at a rate of 60g p.m. ² during spring, summer and autumn.
Calcium (Ca) Leaves blacken, tip-curling and eventual death are usually noticed on young leaves first. Growing tips die or are deformed. This deficiency occurs in high rainfall areas with acidic sandy soil. Calcium is vital in plant growth and development, helping with cell division and is essential for building cell walls. Organic acids in cell walls are neutralized by calcium.
Solution: Applications of superphosphate, lime, and gypsum.
Magnesium (Mg) Striking coloring on margins and/or yellow or dead patches, usually seen on older leaves first. Deficiency occurs in high rainfall regions with sandy, acidic soil or around large concentrations of potassium. Vegetable gardens and lawns suffer from this deficiency. Magnesium is vital in forming chlorophyll and thus essential for photosynthesis.
Solution: Do not catch and remove grass clippings and enrich beds with compost.
Sulphur (S) Underdeveloped leaves with curling edges and yellowing appear often on the youngest leaves first. It is an important element for good flavor in edible crops and vital for the plant’s protein production. This deficiency occurs in high rainfall areas with acidic sandy soil.
Solution: Treat your soil to generous applications of organic matter or apply gypsum-containing sulfur.
Iron (Fe) Young leaves are often white with yellowing appearing between the leaf veins. Iron is essential for photosynthesis and regulates and encourages plant growth, it is vital for the plant to make good use of nitrates. Potassium deficiency plays a role in the severity of iron deficiency.
Solution: Spray plants with a liquid iron sulfate mixture.
Manganese (Mn) Symptoms of pale green veins, blackening water spots, stunting and yellowing between the leaves’ veins appear at it’s worst in overcast weather, usually on the youngest and oldest leaves first. Very large concentrations of Manganese can be toxic but reversible by adding lime. Soils of sand or peat often lack manganese, as well as mediums high in alkalinity, iron, copper, and zinc. This trace element is vital for photosynthesis, protein production, and plant growth.
Solution: Spray plants with a mixture of water and manganese sulfate.
Copper (Cu) Plants wilt and leaves die after turning dark bluish and twisted. Leaves in the middle of a stem usually show signs first and stem tips may die. Peat, sand or soils high in iron, zinc, phosphorus, lime, and manganese may cause copper deficiency. Plants depend on copper as a catalyst when respiring and it is an important ingredient of enzymes.
Solution: Apply 0,04g p.m. ² of copper sulfate every 6 – 7 years.
Zinc (Zn) White and yellow mottling first occur on the youngest leaves. Poor fruit and grain crop production. Shortened stems with bunched ends and undersized leaves. These deficiencies are often found in areas that receive large concentrations of phosphorus.
Solution: 70g of Superphosphate p.m. ² and an equal amount to planting holes. Apply zinc minerals and zinc sulfate to the garden every 10 years.
Boron (B) Youngest leaves crinkle, blacken and their margins turn yellow. Leaf stalks, leaves and flower petals cracks, root- and shoot tips die. This deficiency often occurs in high alkaline, acidic or sandy soils and Brassica crops, like the cabbage depend on it. Boron aids plants in taking up and using calcium and is thus vital for plant growth. It’s depended on for root-, flower buds- and shoots forming.
Solution: Application of 1,2g borax p.m.²
Molybdenum (Mo) Stems twist and leaves, usually first noticed on older ones, are mottled all over and margins scorched. Soils wet, sandy and acidic usually show signs of deficiency. Legumes particularly depend on Molybdenum. This trace element aids the plant’s enzymes in the transformation of nitrogen into a soluble form for the plant.
Solution: Application of 0,035g sodium molybdate p.m. ², or 0,035g ammonium molybdate p.m. ²
Cobalt (Co) Oldest leaves yellow first and early maturity and stunting are symptoms only found with leguminous plants. Cobalt is vital for certain bacteria, which transforms nitrogen into an available form for plants to take in. Deficiency occurs around large concentrations of manganese.
Solution: Cobalt sulfate application of 0,1g p.m. ²
Chlorine (Cl) the stunting of shoots and roots. Chlorine is vital for photosynthesis. It helps protect cereals from disease and promotes root- and shoot growth. This deficiency does not occur locally.
Preparing Your Garden Soil
Soil is made up of many elements it is important to understand that healthy soil is the cornerstone of the garden. Just like a building requires a good foundation so does a garden and healthy rich soil is a must have for this to happen. In order for a garden to reach its maximum potential, you must establish a healthy soil. Of all the suggestions that I would give to a new gardener, it would be to learn about the science of soil improvement.
The definition of good soil is a deep dark appearance with a rich earthy smell that is full of organic matter. The soil should be loose and friable with the ability to hold moisture without becoming waterlogged or saturated. The soil its self should appear to be alive. Good soil is alive it is a bustling and thriving ecosystem with millions of microorganisms, invertebrates, and vertebrates crawling around in it. You could even describe it as a recycling plant, for it reprocesses dead plants and animals into a beneficial substance that helps renew the earth.
Building The Soil
Good soil is typically not found in most back yards because that was stripped away by the builder when he constructed the home. All is not lost though for it is easy enough to build the soil with the right improvement techniques. The best way to build soil is through the addition of organic matter in the form of compost. Do not just add peat moss or coconut core you need to use compost whether the soil is clay or sand the compost is the answer. Compost is decomposed plant waste such as leaves, twigs, grass clippings, and all other types of plant material that is digested by microorganisms and turned into a nutrient-rich material. The addition of compost worked into the soil will cause it to transform the soil into the perfect environment to raise your plants. The soil will be loose and airy and allow the roots to penetrate deep which will, in turn, produce a healthy plant capable of maintaining proper growth and maximum production. The beneficial organisms will help breakdown the nutrients and provide food for the plants. Healthy soil will also help the plant by it making stronger to ward off attacks by pests and disease.
While this process will not happen overnight over the course of several seasons the soil should be transformed. The biggest part of the equation is the ability to add well-decomposed compost. If you have a yard though this should be no problem as you will generate enough material to make a ready supply of compost.
In order to produce good compost quickly, the proper carbon-to-nitrogen ratio is essential. What this is just a recipe to provide the right amount of the right kinds of materials to your compost pile. All organic matter is made with carbon and includes nitrogen to a lesser degree. The ratio of these two elements is called the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. The scientist has discovered that the proper balance to start and maintain the composting of this matter is 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.
A good way to determine carbons from nitrogen is the color designation Browns are carbons such as
- Corn Stalks
- Fruit waste
- Peanut shells
- Pine needles
- Wood chips
While Green materials would be considered high nitrogen and would consist of things like
- Coffee grounds
- Food waste
- Garden waste
- Grass clippings
- Vegetable scraps
Building And Maintaining The Pile
Select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin. Be sure to chop or shred larger pieces before adding to your pile. Cover the composting area with a 6-inch layer of brown materials then add a 3-inch layer of green materials and a little soil or finished compost. Lightly mix the two layers together so that they are blended well. Finally, add a 3-inch layer of brown materials then add water until moist. Every week or two turn your compost pile with a pitchfork to distribute air and moisture, be sure to move the dry materials from the edges into the middle of the pile. Continue this until the pile does not re-heat much after turning. The compost should be ready in one to four months, but let the pile sit for about two weeks after the final turning before using. You may find some of the sticks and another brown material has not completely broken down, just sift them out an addition to your next pile.
Adding The Compost To The Soil
As your compost is ready it can be added to your garden soil as a mulch around the plants. Each fall after the season is overspread a 4-inch layer of compost over the soil and work it in. In the spring add another 4-inch layer of compost and work it in about two to three weeks before planting. The soil will quickly respond and reward you with a healthy and vigorous garden.
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