Soil Types Classifications
Don’t get too bogged down in the theory just yet. I’ve spent a lot of my gardening life just sticking something in the ground and watering it then watching it grow. It’s only when things fail to thrive that I’ve wondered what’s wrong. It’s only in the last month that I have ever tested my soil. if you stick your head over your neighbor’s fence and see that their garden is growing like mad it’s a pretty good bet that yours will also.
So if you are totally new to gardening give yourself a break and don’t get involved in all this stuff just yet. Gardening is science in practice but it should be enjoyable first or you just won’t do it.
Some soils are better than others for growing plants. Soil will be either sandy, clay or somewhere in between. The type of soil you have affects the amount of water and nutrients that are available to your plants and what your drainage will be like.
Sandy Soils hold water and nutrients poorly. They drain well – often too well. They are easy to dig and are often called light soils. Sandy soil doesn’t stick together and will feel gritty when rubbed between your fingers.
Clay Soils store water well – often too well and so drainage will be poor. They are often glue like and sticky to touch when wet and are difficult to dig and are often called heavy. When rubbed between your fingers is will feel quite smooth. If you have clay soil and want to break it up add some gypsum.
Then there are all the ones in between which are broadly called sandy loam when they have more sand than clay or clay loam when they have more clay than sand. Ideally you would have fifty fifty sand and clay but I’ve never had it.
If you have heavy clay soil you would probably be better to use raised garden beds as or it will all get to be too back breakingly difficult to be fun. Likewise if you have a yard full of rocks it will be much more fun to have a garden that is raised off the ground so you don’t have to dig into the rocks and try to turn it into something that vegetables will love – it’s just not going to happen.
Acid or Alkaline?
PH is the measure of the soils acidity or alkalinity it is measured on a scale of zero to 14. Most vegetables like a ph level between 6 and 7.
Some garden centres have soil testing service or you can buy a testing kit.
Recently I found a meter that I can stick in the ground it may not be 100% accurate but it’s good enough and really handy as the PH and soil type can differ from one part of your yard to the other. Often an area near a path which may have some concrete residue may be alkaline when the rest of your yard is acid. This is because of the lime in the concrete.
I have quite sandy soil in some parts and sticky clay in another. The soil in my veggie patch is acid level 5 clayey sand.
A good indication of your soil PH can be to check out what’s growing in your neighbourhood.
If Azaleas Camellias and Gardenias are growing well and the hydrangeas are blue the soil will probably be acid and if the hydrangeas are pink it will alkaline. To make your acid soil more alkaline add some garden lime or dolomite (I use dolomite as it also has calcium and magnesium).
If your soil is alkaline, you can lower your soil’s pH or make it more acidic by using sphagnum peat, elemental sulfur, aluminum sulfate, iron sulfate, acidifying nitrogen, and by mixing in lots of organic mulches. All these methods take time so don’t expect massive change overnight but stick with it it will happen.
Use Seaweed concentrate as a general soil conditioner it isn’t a fertilizer but has lots a trace elements which vegetables love.