Gardening 101 – SOIL

When thinking of starting a garden many things come to mind:

  • location
  • what plants will we grow
  • when can we plant our plants
  • protecting the garden from domestic and wild animals

I would like to suggest to you, that the most important of all considerations should be SOIL.   According to a Korean farmers’ proberb, “If you have 10 dollars to spend on your farm, spend 9 of them on your soil.”

What is soil.  Soil is a thin layer of material on the Earth’s surface in which plants have their roots.  From this definition we can see: if our soil is poor, then the roots of our plants will be poor, and so in turn our plants will be poor.   In this case, the only chance our plants would have, is for us to continually dump fertilizer on them.  I, like most of you, have expelled chemicals, yes fertilizer is a chemical, from my garden.

In order to help understand how to improve our soil, we must know a little about it.

What does soil do?

  1. It serves to anchor roots.
  2. It supplies water to the plant.
  3. It provides air for the plant roots.
  4. It furnishes the minerals for plant nutrition.

What is soil made up of?

  1. mineral components (sand, silt, or clay)
  2. organic matter
  3. soil organisms
  4. air
  5. water

Image by meted.ucar.edu

As gardeners our goal is to increase the amount of organics in the soil.  This can be done by adding leaves, grass clippings, or compost.  Compost should be well decomposed.

Why are we so concerned with increasing organics?  What do they do?

Organics:

  1. Provide a major source of three nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.
  2. Increase water holding capacity.
  3. Increase soil air.
  4. Regulate nutrient releases.
  5. Assure that soils are neither too wet nor too dry and is a buffer against extremes in toxic conditions.
  6. Provide an energy source for soil microorganisms (plants and animals).

Bottom line, the more organics in our soil, the healthier our plants.

The best way to add organics is through compost.  Compost will be the topic for my next gardening 101 post.
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