Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Great Soil is a Gardens Foundation", Part 1

   Good soil in the garden is like building your house on a Solid foundation or feeding your children a well balanced diet! Over the next few posts I will give tips and suggestions on how to get your garden soil to the best it can be. I have covered some of these things before and will link back to them as we go. I remember my dad and Grammie spending more time preparing the "dirt" in the garden more then anything. Not only would they spend time on the soil for the garden but they would test all the hay fields on the farms, so it must have been important! Plus that's where all those good vitamins and minerals come from that you want to put into your body!  So how to get it to it's best?
   #1 You want to do is test the pH of your soil, it doesn't matter if it is in the garden, lawn, hayfield or even your potted houseplants. Yes, I said potted houseplants, even the pH in them will change overtime. The ph (acidity level) of your soil has a large part to do with how well your plants grow, ph is tested on a scale of 0 to14, with 0 being very acidic and 14 being very alkaline. Most plants grow best in soil with a fairly neutral ph, between 6 and 7. When the ph level is lower than 5 or higher than 8, plants just won’t grow as well as they should, unless that is the area that they grow best in. Every Home and Garden store sells these kits or you can send your samples of to your local agriculture dept. to have professionally tested.
   Note: My new friend at "Let This Be in You" blog, has a wonderful in depth post on "Soil Testing", so please click the link to go read more about this!
  #2 You want to do a composition test or "the squeeze test" as Grammie called it. Soils are classified as clay soils, sandy soils, or loamy soils. Clay is nutrient rich, but slow draining. Sand is quick draining, but has trouble retaining nutrients and moisture. Loam is generally considered to be ideal soil because it retains moisture and nutrients but doesn’t stay soggy.
   To figure out your soil type, take a handful of moist (but not wet) soil from your garden, and give it a firm squeeze. Then, open your hand. One of three things will happen: 1) It will hold its shape, and when you give it a light poke, it crumbles. Lucky you—this means you have luxurious loam! 2) It will hold its shape, and, when poked, sits stubbornly in your hand. This means you have clay soil. 3) It will fall apart as soon as you open your hand. This means you have sandy soil.
   Now you can work on improving it, unless you are one of the Blessed ones with Loamy soil and you can just keep adding good Ol "Black Gold" Compost or you may have to work to improve it and we will talk about that a little later!
  #3 Next you can do the "Percolation Test", this determines the drainage of your soil. This is good to know because some plants grow much better in a well drained soil and some obviously do not! To test your soil’s drainage: 1) Dig a hole about six inches wide and one foot deep (Dad used a post hole digger, if you have one). 2) Fill the hole with water and let it drain completely. 3) Fill it with water again. 4) Keep track of how long it takes for the water to drain.
   If the water takes more than four hours to drain, you have poor drainage (Clay Soil) and if it drains right out within minutes that can be a problem as well (sandy soil)!
  #4 Finally, you want to do the "Garden Champion" test. You know check for your hardest workers, Worms, lol! Worms are great indicators of the overall health of your soil, especially in terms of biological activity. If you have earthworms, chances are that you also have all of the beneficial microbes and bacteria that make for healthy soil and strong plants.
   How to do the worm test? 1) Be sure the soil has warmed to at least 55 degrees, and that it is at least somewhat moist, but not soaking wet. 2) Dig a hole one foot across and one foot deep. Place the soil on a tarp or piece of cardboard. 3) Sift through the soil with your hands as you place it back into the hole, counting the earthworms as you go.
   If you find at least ten worms, your soil is in pretty good shape. Less than that indicates that there may not be enough organic matter in your soil to support a healthy worm population, or that your soil is too acidic or alkaline.Then you need to check the pH again!
    Tip: If you are lacking worms, you can either buy some to add or when you add fresh compost or maybe a friend has some good rich horse manure you can add. Any of these ways will bring a good host of them back to you garden! 
  This will get you started, now onto some other important soil tips in the next part!

For more reading:
 "Great Soil is a Gardens Foundation", Part 2
"Great Soil is a Gardens Foundation", Part 3


Matthew 13:3  "Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow.....8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”


 Linked With:
Harvest MondaysBloom DayThe Country Homemaker, TALU Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesday, Frugal Tuesdays, Frugal Days Sustainable WayWildcrafty Wednesdays, Wednesday Link Party, The Home Acre Hop, Country Garden Showcase, Farm Girl Blogfest Fridays Fertilizer Flaunts, Fantabulus Fridays,  Farm Girl Friday, Clever Chicks Blog Hop,, Simply Natural Saturday, 
Sunny Simple Sunday Link

34 comments:

  1. This was a good read. Thanks for sharing. I did notice more worms in my flower beds, herb gardens and veggie/fruit gardens this year.

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  2. Thanks Clint! I need this post!! I will be pinning it! Thank you for keeping it simple! Makes it less overwhelming! Looking forward to the rest of the posts!

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm a simple person, lol!

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  3. Great info! We read (some blog somewhere) that you can buy worms at Wal-Mart in the camping dept. Which we did and by the time we got home they were dead. So I wouldn't recommend them!

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    1. There are very good companies that you can buy either worms from or worm eggs. Usually companies that sell organic gardening supplies. You should have any problems there!

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  4. Hello, Clint!
    You are so right..soil is the most important thing.

    Good old horse manure can't be beat! Or screened old rotting wood chips.

    Grace and peace to you in 2013~

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  5. Thanks for the tutorial...one of my classes this week was on soil..and guess what..he said the same thing. Guess I need to hear it twice. Have a great day.

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  6. Fantastic info! We've been working on the soil of the gardens for quite a few years. It's better now since using the 'no till' method.

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  7. Love this post....I thought I was doing well testing my soil..but aside from the ph....welll that isn't true...I do know what most of it meant but I like your insight a whoooolllee lot more

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  8. Good job :) I would love to have you join The HomeAcre Hop at:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/01/1213.html

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    1. Will do, Thanks for the invite!

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    2. So happy to have you join us on The HomeAcre Hop and Wildcrafting Wednesday! Thanks for sharing :) And thanks for the link to Kristi's excellent post on soil pH...she did a great job too!

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  9. This is a very good post! Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Thanks for sharing such good info!
    *hugs*deb

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  11. Thanks for sharing. Sadly, I have clay. I could build sturdy homes with my soil. I'm with your Grammie out preparing soil.

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  12. Gotta say....I almost never comment on posts but this couldn't have come at a better time. Excellent help, many thanks!

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  13. Hey Clint! I've been looking at your link at the Blog Fest and meaning to get over here and read about soil because I'm not sure what to do next now that I've tested! Thanks so much for the shout out, and you bet this 'soil novice' will be following this series!

    ~Kristi@Let This Mind Be in You

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    1. You are welcome Kristi. I was thankful to find such a great article to share!

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  14. This was a great post Clint. I needed to brush up on my soil science basics. My brain seems to forget more each year. Thank you. I am going to go out and check my worm count tomorrow. I always do the squeeze test when I hit new soil and I was amazed by how nice the soil is here at the new place. After 17 years of clay soil, a nice aluvial loam will be a blessing. I hope you have a wonderful week.

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    1. Sometimes I would like to garden in the soil of the woods! lol

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  15. some good simple tips here, I have lots of worms now in the garden, just wish they would move into the pasture too!

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    1. There may be to much acid in the soil of the pasture. Check that out!

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  16. We're about to move to a new home and one of things we are most excited about is all the gardening space! This post is perfect and I'm bookmarking it!

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  17. thank you so much for linking in this week. I always enjoy having time to get around and look at what everyone shared with us! I hope to see you again soon! I am sharing this post on the tootsie time facebook page as well!
    hugs from Alberta Canada!

    (¯`v´¯)
    `*.¸.*´Glenda/Tootsie
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.
    www.tootsietime.com

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    1. That you so much for sharing. See you next time!

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