ANITA STONE: All Soils Definitely Not Same
I have constantly attempted to define 'soil-less soil.' Is it to be compared with wingless butterflies, leafless geraniums or gingerless-ginger, which all sounds like a horticultural cleansing of the landscape?
Soil types simply describe dirt as we know it to be a combination of chemical ingredients. When you think about all the types of soil being distributed at home improvement centers, the question arises, "What should I purchase -- and why?"
To address the question is to know your soil texture. The simplest method to determine the type involves a hand manipulation. If you pick up a marble-sized chunk of moist soil and roll it between your thumb, forefinger and middle finger, trying to shape it into a ball, you will quickly discover the type with which you are working.
If you have clay soil, you will end up with a marble-sized ball. Sandy soil will fall apart.
And with loamy soil, the result will wind up somewhere between, eventually breaking apart.
Sandy soil is easy to cultivate and warm up quickly in spring. It drains well so plants do not stand in water for too long. However, because it drains quickly, plants need to be regularly watered and fed.
Silty soil is rich in nutrients, and is also heavier because it retains moisture and becomes compacted frequently. It drains well and is easier to cultivate than clay.
Clay soil is difficult to work because it is heavy and drainage is not conducive to growth.
The soil is acidic and clinging in wet weather. Organic fertilizer can be added at a rate of two buckets per square yard when preparing beds for vegetables.
Loamy soil contains all of the above -- sandy, silt and clay -- and is one of the most fertile soils on the planet. Almost any crop can be grown in loam. It warms up quickly in spring and rarely dries out in summer.
Other types of soil exist, but we don't pay attention to them because they are not frequently found in our zonal landscapes. It is educational, though, to recognize other types for future reference.
Chalk soil depends on the depth of soil overlying the chalk formation. If the topsoil is thin, the ground will be poor and needy. It will be bone dry in summer, and the plants will need extensive watering and feeding.
Peaty soil is found in boggy areas. It is composed of humus and is associated with water-logging. The soil is usually very acidic and contains few nutrients. It warms up quickly in spring and is excellent for plant growth if fertilizer is added.
This instant knowledge should assist gardeners in identifying the type of soil that exists on individual landscapes. And everyone is encouraged to take soil samples from the yard to have them analyzed -- free -- via the County Agricultural Extension Service.
But, back to the basic question: what is soil-less soil? If you check the Internet, you would find a deep-rooted explanation of nothing more than a hodge-podge of answers. The best offering is that a soilless potting mix is preferable to using regular garden soil. It's a simple task to mix your own recipe.
Most would suggest six parts Sphagnum Peat Moss, one part Vermiculite and one part Perlite. To this concoction, add two parts compost. If you really want to have the best mix in town, use bone meal and dolomitic limestone to raise the pH and provide calcium and magnesium. To make sure there's enough nitrogen in the mix; blood meal or dried kelp may be used.
As for me, I will continue to purchase those 'good ole mixes' that work well for the plants. Otherwise, I would have to set up a substation and mix my way to horticultural heaven.
Contact Raleigh writer Anita Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org.?
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