Guide to Soil Characteristics

It is important that you understand the soil characteristics of your garden if you want to make the most of your planting endeavors.


| June 2014


Have you ever hesitated before planting, unsure whether your garden plan is right for the space you have to use? If that’s the case, you need to check out Site Assessment for Better Gardens and Landscapes (PALS Publishing, 2013), a great tool for learning how to evaluate the characteristics of a site and determining which plants will thrive. Author Charles P. Mazza offers advice and strategies for gardeners novice and expert alike, with more than thirty hands-on activities and fifty color photos. This excerpt comes explains how to determine the soil characteristics of your site, and how that affects your selection of plants.

You can purchase this book from Capper's Farmer store: Site Assessment for Better Gardens and Landscapes.

Why is Knowing Soil Characteristics Important?

Soil can make or break a garden or landscape because it supplies water and nutrients to plants through the plants’ roots. Too much or too little of either can hurt plant health. The physical and chemical composition of soil varies from place to place and can even be different within the same yard. Considering soil characteristics will help you select plants that will thrive.

The physical composition of soil is determined by the soil’s texture — the relative amounts of sand, silt, and clay in the soil. Knowing the soil’s physical composition will help you make informed decisions later in the process. The chemical composition of the soil — the levels of nutrients present and the soil pH — affects nutrient uptake by plants. For example, some plants (such as blueberries and rhododendrons) require acidic soil.



Activities

1. What’s the physical composition of my soil? — Soil Sedimentation Test

Materials
• Pointed shovel
• Bucket
• Sealable plastic bag
• Pint-sized glass jar with tightly fitting lid — the narrower the better (an olive jar works well)
• Kitchen timer, watch, or electronic timer
• Powdered dishwasher detergent
• Ruler
• Masking tape
• Site assessment notebook 

Estimated Time: 20 minutes of collecting, observing, and recording. Overnight for drying the soil. It may take 2–3 days to complete the test.

RENEEB
9/9/2014 11:57:20 AM

Very interesting article. I have a question about the effect of water on soil. We live in an area with very clay soil. It is so fine in particle that when you dig a hole (with great effort) water will sit in the hole for days and won't percolate down. So we built beds and brought in soil because we wanted to plant right away. However, doing a water test revealed that our well water was very alkaline. This is also evidenced by the fact that calcium carbonate deposits remain when water goes down in the local creeks. We also have very hot weather (often in the triple digits for days at a time). My vegetables don't flower well, have high percentage of male to female flowers. My yields are very low. I can grow sweet basil and sunflowers like gangbusters. Is my water ruining the pH in my boughten soil?








mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE









Subscribe today

Capper's FarmerWant to rediscover what made grandma’s house the fun place we all remember? Capper’s Farmer — the newly restored publication from the rural know-how experts at Grit.com — updates the tried-and-true methods your grandparents used for cooking, crafting, gardening and so much more. Subscribe today and discover the joys of homemade living and homesteading insight — with a dash of modern living — that makes up the new Capper’s Farmer.

Save Even More Money with our automatic renewal savings plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 4 issues of Capper's Farmer for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $22.95 for a one year subscription!




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265