01 Apr Planting Season Series Continued
PLANTING SEASON SERIES
Continuing on with the Planting Season Series from last month – before you start your planting you need to know your soil. Starting below ground level is always best when it comes to planting. The soil in your garden is the key to growing plants successfully – you need to understand a few different aspects of the soil. There is the texture/ type of the soil, the pH of the soil, the draining capacity of the soil and the site’s hydrology. I would suggest to dig a hole and take a good look at your soil and how deep you can dig down. By digging a hole, you can see the different soil horizons, you can work out how much topsoil you have, how much available soil you have for roots to grow into before you hit rock.
The pH of the soil
I would highly recommend testing your soil’s pH. This can be completed with a at home pH tester kit, or you can send your soil to a soil testing company. Soil pH measures the alkalinity or acidity levels in the soil. This is a range from 0 to 14 on the pH scale. The middle (7) is considered neutral while levels falling below 7 are acidic and those above that number are alkaline. The pH of the soil will determine the availability of nutrients in the soil, the amounts of nutrients held in soils, soil toxicity and the level of microorganism activity. Ideally a pH of 5 – 6.5 is ideal for most plants. It is important to know if the pH of the soil as it will impact which plants are suited to your garden. The pH level of the soil can be changed if needed however an easier way of dealing with soils with pH extremes is to select plants that will cope with these conditions.
The texture of the soil is defined as what the soil is made up of in relation to particles of varying sizes such as sand, loam, and clay. The various levels of these particles will determine what texture or soil type you have in your garden. For example, a clay soil will have smaller finer particles and less coarser particles, whereas a sandy soil is the opposite. The texture will influence the rate at which water can penetrate the soil and flow through, it will impact the amount of water and air the ground can hold, and it will directly impact the ease with which soil can be worked, cultivated or dug.
This is directly impacted by the texture or type of soil you have in the garden. You can then decide whether you need to improve the soil or if it is suitable for the types of plants you want to plant. All plants will need some level of organic matter in the soil for them to grow. Some plants will require more organic matter than others.
If you have more of a sandy soil, it will be much more well-draining and therefore more drought tolerant plants would be suitable. To increase the water holding content of the soil you can add organic matter to the soil.
If you have more of a clay-based soil, you will find the water holding capacity of the soil will be high. If too high for your plants – you can dig through or spray on Gypsum added to your soil to break down the clay particles. You can also add more organic compost.