There are different soils types and different species of plants have
different requirements. Soil types vary in different areas and there is
no much point in trying to alter it unless you are doing it on a
commercial basis, for example, a football club trying to get optimum
soil type for the species of grass it is using. Once you have
established the type of soil you have, there are lots of ways it can be
improved. If your soil is in good condition then your plants will be
If you wish to improve your soil, you must identify its characteristics,
is it clay based, chalky or sandy? You can find out all you need to know
by simply working the soil you wish to grow in and information of local
area soil types are easily available on the internet or your local
library. You can also test for the acidity or alkalinity of the soil
with a soil testing kit which is widely available in garden centers.
Clay soil can be so compact that even in the middle of summer it can
retain plenty of water, sandy soils are made up of larger particles and
can warm up and cool down very quickly. Chalky soil leaches water and
nutrients very quickly and is a shallow stony soil. Loam is by far the
best soil to grow in, it is very well balanced and does a very good job
of retaining nutrients.
Sand Based Soils:
This is a very light and easily worked soil, in the spring this soil
warms up very quickly which gives the plants a good beginning to the
season. However, they drain very well so nutrients are easily washed
away, this is known as leaching. Sandy soils require lots of
fertilizer or organic matter added to them.
Loam Based Soils:
Loam is a rich and nutritious soil type which also holds water well;
this is the soil type that is also used in sports like cricket and
tennis. Loam is a mixture of sand and clay and is a particularly good
soil to cultivate in as long as it does not become to compact.
Clay Based Soils:
Clay is made up of particles that clog together and can become very
compacted, although clay soils can become very rich, the compaction
leads to a lack of air pockets in the soil which in turn leads to a lack
of micro-organisms which break down organic matter into a form that can
be uptaken by plants. To get the best out of clay soil, it is very
important to work the soil to improve drainage and aeration.
Chalk Based Soils:
Like sand based soils, nutrients leach through this soil type very
easily. In the high of summer and during periods of drought, excessive
watering is needed. Alkaline loving plants thrive in chalk based soils
but acidic loving plants like azaleas do not do well at all.
Acidic and Alkaline Soils:
The PH of a soil is highly important, different plants require different
amounts of elements and trace elements and the elements they can uptake
is determined by the PH of the soil. The optimum PH for most plants is
6.5 PH, at this reading most elements are easily up-taken by a plant.
Although towards the end of a season when plants flower of fruit, they
often require PH levels to drop slightly. Acidic soils can be changed by
adding lime which is available from most garden centers. Peat can be
added to alkaline in soils to make it more acidic.
Living soil is good soil which is rich in organic matter, this soil
contains bacteria and micro-organisms which break down dead leaves and
other organic matter into vital nutrients which plants can absorb. The
presence of earthworms is also a good sign as they aerate the soil and
pull organic matter downwards which conditions the soil.
Working the ground with a spade or fork is a good way of aerating the
waterlogged or compact soil, if done on a commercial basis machine can
be used to do this. Double digging bedding areas annually at the end of
a season is a good way of ensuring good soil for the following year.
Adding organic materials like manure or compost will aerate the soil and
improve its texture; this also helps to retain moisture so that plants
can grow better. Compost is easily made and you can create it yourself
from tea bags, old leaves and vegetable peelings. Ideally, you want to
create your own compost heap and leave it for about several months to
break down. When it?s ready you will have a nice dressing for whatever
requirements you need.
Soil Testing Kits:
You can test soil PH balances with a simple soil testing kit. Simply add
a small drop of the chemical to the soil and it will produce a liquid
which can be matched against the color chart provided with the testing
kit. This will tell you the acidity or alkalinity of the soil and also
indicate the presence of key nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus,
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