There are two basic types of soil – mineral and organic. Mineral soil consists of sand, silt and clay in varying proportions. This type of soil is usually associated with deposits of minerals, minor minerals and micro minerals and is usually low in organic matter. This local soil is usually sandy, gravelly with rocky or hardpan subsoil.
Organic soils are the result of incomplete decomposition of large deposits of extinct plant material. These soils are peat or muck soils. They are usually low in mineral content but quite high in organic matter. The soil is formed when vegetative or animal matter rots. The end product of this rotting process is HUMUS (peat moss, compost).
Humus is one of the most important products needed for good soil production. Humus provides soil with the following qualities:
- Binds sand particles together
- Separates clay particles
- Holds plant food to the soil particle
- Holds water to the soil particle
- Improves soil aeration
- Supports beneficial bacteria
- Regulates soil temperature
- Converts insoluble salts to soluble minerals
Organic matter, either animal or vegetative, rots with the aid of water, bacteria and soil enzymes to form Humus.
Animal Matter is droppings of horses, cows, steers, chickens, sheep, pigs, rabbits, goats, etc. These animal manures are usually low in plant nutrients (minerals, but high in organic matter. The dry manures, such as horse and chicken, are usually the best. The other manures are usually wet and cold manures and are not as productive.
Mushroom manure is really horse manure that has been composted with soil or peat, lime and plant nutrients. This compost is used in the mushroom houses for up to three months, then discarded. It is an excellent form of organic matter.
Vegetative matter comes from rotting the many forms of plant vegetation such as compost, green manures or sawdust. Keep reading for Hunters Garden Centre suggestions on composting.
An ideal soil is composed of 1/3 sand, 1/3 silt, 1/6 clay and 1/6 humus. This formula holds air, water, plant minerals, minor minerals and micro minerals to the soil particle. This is the ultimate in soil and is made possible by humus. Any soil (sand, clay or peat) can be made into a better soil by improving the soil structure. For example:
- If your soil is sandy, add organic matter and silt or clay
- If your soil is clay, add sand and organic matter
- If your soil is peat, add sand, silt or clay
Every good garden deserves good soil. If you don’t have it – make it by the above methods!
Good Soil Management
Once you have attained good soil it must be maintained. Each year organic matter should be added to your soil in any of the above ways. A good program to follow in the spring and fall is:
- Clean up weeds, leaves, etc and put in compost
- Apply organic matter up to three inches
- Apply DOLOMITE lime at 2 lbs per 100 square feet.
- Add plant food (fertilizer) – Spring 6-8-6 at 5 lbs per 100 square feet & Fall 3-15-6 at 5 lbs per 100 square feet
- Rototill or fork over
Other factors of good soil management that we recommend are:
- Proper drainage system for wet areas.
- Practice crop rotation in your garden. For example, root crops after legumes.
- Adjust pH regularly (yearly) using DOLOMITE lime. A pH level of 5.5 to 6.5 is preferred.
- Prevent soil erosion, especially on hilly sites, by terracing.
- Use proper plant foods (fertilizers) for your crop.
- Cultivate garden regularly for weed control, aeration and moisture retention.
- Spray and dust your garden with the right product, at the right concentration, at the right time for pest control.
- Use proper tools to do the job. Rototillers for large areas, forks and cultivators for smaller areas