Garden Clippings: Soil

No matter what kind of soil you have, there are a few things you can do to help your plants thrive.


| February 2007


My house sits on a half-acre of some of the best soil in Kansas. The sandy-loam soil texture is enough to spoil a gardener. It seems that with the addition of water, most plants will do well, which makes me a fortunate gardener.

I'm lucky that the home my wife and I bought happened to have good soil. However, that's not always the case. Unless you're somewhat obsessed with gardening, what lies below the grass is an afterthought to the style, location and price range of that perfect house you'll call home.

No matter what kind of soil you have, there are a few things you can do to help your plants thrive.

As the frost begins to come out of the ground this spring, get the vegetable garden worked for the coming planting season. Many gardeners probably tilled this area last fall, which has allowed the freezing and thawing actions of the soil to create a nice planting bed. For those of us who didn't get it done before winter set in, the time to do it is as the frost leaves and the soil is dry enough to work.

One of the worst things a gardener can do to the soil is to work it when it's too wet. Doing so breaks down the soil structure and eliminates the natural voids in the soil that are necessary for oxygen and moisture retention for the roots of the garden plants. It's better to not work the soil at all than to work it when it's wet.

When working in the garden this spring, take note as to the condition below where the garden tiller stops working in the soil, especially in vegetable gardens that are planted in the same area year-in and year-out. A hard-pan - a compacted layer of soil that develops because the soil is worked at the same depth every year - can develop in these areas, which will be detrimental to the development of garden plants. Not only does this type of condition inhibit root systems from developing deep into the soil through the compacted layer, it can also create a 'bathtub' effect by not letting rainfall percolate away from the root system, causing plants to stress.





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