Every one of us with a little knowledge of biology knows that the success of growing horticultural crops depends on many different factors at the same time. Climatic conditions, planting dates, varieties, timing, and good cultivation techniques are some of the things that have a direct impact on the harvest.
One of the fundamental issues that often plays a decisive role in the outcome of gardens and vegetable gardens is the soil type. The soil on your plot will determine whether crops can be grown, what type of fertilizer is needed, and how often you need to water and weed. Yes, it can all make a real difference, and for better or worse, if you don’t know what kind of soil you’re dealing with – soil.
BASIC SOIL TYPES
The main soil types most commonly encountered by American vegetable farmers are the clay, sand, loam, limestone, and swampy soils, as well as other types: Gelisols, Histosols, Spodosols, Andisols, Oxisols, Vertisols, Aridisols, Ultisols, Mollisols, Alfisols, Inceptisols, Entisols. More detailed information on soils can be found here.
Like the classification systems for plants and animals, the soil classification system contains several levels of detail, ranging from the most general to the most specific. The most general classification level in the US system is the Soil Order, of which there are 12.
Each has positive and negative characteristics and, therefore, different recommendations for improvement and crop selection. Pure forms are rare, mostly combined, but dominated by certain characteristics. Knowledge of these characteristics constitutes 80% of the success of a good harvest.
Clay soil is easy to recognize: when excavated, it has a coarse, crumbly, dense structure that sticks greasily to the feet in the rain, does not absorb water properly, and tends to stick. If you roll a handful of this soil (moist) into a long sausage, it can easily be bent into a loop and will not crumble or crack.
Because of its high density, it is considered heavy soil. It is slow to warm up, poorly ventilated, and has a low absorption coefficient. Therefore, it is difficult to grow crops on this soil. However, if properly cultivated, clay soils can become quite fertile.
To lighten and enrich this type of soil, it is recommended to add sand, peat, ash, and lime regularly. Sand reduces the water content of the soil. Ash enriches the soil with nutrients. Peat will loosen and increase the absorption of water. Lime will reduce acidity and improve the permeability of the soil.
How much to put in – this is a personal question, directly related to your soil parameters and can only be determined in the laboratory. But in general: sand – no more than 88 Lb (40 kg) per 11 sq ft, lime – about 300-400 g per 11 sq ft, deep tillage every 4 years (on weakly acidic reactive soils), no limits for peat and ash. If organic matter is an option, horse manure is the best choice for improving the fertility of clay soils. Sowing green manures, such as mustard, rye, and oats, will not be useless.
Plants on clay soils are not easy. Poor root warmth, lack of oxygen, water stagnation, and the formation of soil slabs are not conducive to harvesting. But there are still trees and shrubs with strong enough root systems that this type of soil is tolerable. Among vegetables, potatoes, beets, peas, and Jerusalem artichoke plants grow well on clay soils.
More Related Information About Planting & Growing Vegetables
For other crops, we can recommend raised beds, planted on ridges, using shallow depths to embed seeds and tubers in the soil, planting seedlings diagonally (to better warm the root system). In clay soils, special attention should be paid to loosening and mulching.
Sandy soil is light soil. It is also easy to identify: it is loose, loosely packed, and easily permeable. It won’t work if you take a handful of this soil in your hand and try to form a lump.
All the qualities of sandy soil are both advantages and disadvantages. Such soils warm up quickly, are well aerated, and are easy to work, but at the same time, they cool down quickly, dry out quickly and retain few minerals in the root zone (nutrients are washed down deep into the soil by water). As a result, they have a low content of beneficial microflora and are not suitable for growing crops.
To improve the fertility of such soils, attention must always be paid to improving their compaction and cohesion characteristics. Regular applications of peat, compost, mulch, clay, or borax (up to two buckets per 11 square English), the use of green manure (incorporated into the soil), and good mulching will produce decent, sustainable results after only 3 to 4 years.
But even if this land is still in the process of being cultivated, carrots, onions, melons, strawberries, currants, and fruit trees can be planted. Cabbage, peas, potatoes, and beets will do less well on sandy soils, but you can get good results if you fertilize with a fast-acting, low-dose, and frequent fertilizer application.
For those who don’t want the hassle of soil amendment, there is another option – creating an artificially fertile layer with clay soil. To do this, it is necessary to arrange a clay castle in place of the seedbed – lay a 2-2.3 inch (5-6 cm) layer of clay) and fill it with 12-13 inches (30-35 cm) of yellow sand or loess, taken from the side.
Clay-sand is another option for lighter textured soils. It has similar qualities to sandy soil, but it contains a slightly higher percentage of clay inclusions, so it has better retention of minerals and organic matter, not only warms up quickly but also holds heat for a long time, is less permeable to moisture, dries slowly, is well aerated and easy to handle.
You can define a handful of wet soil by squeezing it into sausages or lumps: if it forms but does not hold its shape, you have yellow sandy soil.
Anything can grow on this soil as long as you follow the usual cultivation methods and choose experienced varieties. It is one of the good choices for your garden. However, the technique of increasing and maintaining the fertility of these soils will not be superfluous. It is recommended to regularly introduce organic matter (regular doses), sow the green manure, and cover the ground with mulch.
Loamy soil is the most suitable soil for growing horticultural crops. It is easy to work with, contains a high percentage of nutrients, has high permeability and water permeability, not only retains moisture but also distributes it evenly over the entire horizon, and retains heat well. If you take a handful of such soil in the palm of your hand and roll it up, you can easily form a sausage. However, it cannot be bent into a loop because it will collapse once it is deformed.
Due to the combination of existing properties, loamy soil does not need to be improved, but only to maintain its fertility: mulch, bring fertilizer in the fall when digging – 6.6-8.8 Lb (3-4 kg) per 11 sq. ft. and fertilize the crops planted on it with mineral fertilizers if necessary. It can grow on topsoil.
Lime soil is classified as poor soil. It is usually light brown in color, has many stony inclusions, has an alkaline environment, heats and dries rapidly at high temperatures, gives poor iron and manganese to plants, and can have a heavy or light composition. Crops grown on such soils have yellowing leaves and poor growth.
To improve the structure and fertility of calcareous soils, organic fertilizers should be applied regularly, not only in the basic tillage process but also as mulch, sown as green manure, and potash.
On this type of soil, everything can be planted, but it is necessary to regularly loosen the rows, to water in time, and to use mineral and organic fertilizers wisely. Weak acidity can affect: potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, squash, turnips, cucumbers, and salads, so feed them with fertilizers that tend to acidify rather than alkalize the soil (e.g., ammonium sulfate, urea).
Boggy or peaty soils are also suitable for building garden plots. However, it is difficult to say that they are good for crop growth: they contain nutrients that are not available to plants, they absorb water quickly but give up just as quickly, heat poorly, and often have a high acidity index. On the other hand, such soils retain mineral fertilizers very well and are easy to cultivate.
To improve the fertility of bogs, it is necessary to saturate the soil with sand (to do this, deep excavations are necessary to lift the sand from the lower layers) or with clay powder, on particularly acidic versions, apply lime in large quantities, taking care to increase the content of useful microorganisms in the soil (use manure, liquid fertilizers, composts, do not neglect microbial additives) and do not forget to use potassium and phosphorus fertilizers.
If you plant a garden on peat soil, it is better to plant the trees in pits, lay separate soil for the crop, or plant in mounds 20-40 inches (0.5-1 m) high.
Till the soil carefully under the garden, or lay down a clay layer as in the sandy soil variant and fill it with peat soil, organic fertilizer, and lime. However, if you plant only gooseberries, currants, black cohosh, and garden strawberries, you can do nothing – just water and control weeds, as these plants grow on this soil and do not need to be tilled to be successful.
Of course, when it comes to soil, it’s hard, not to mention black soil. We don’t often encounter them on our garden plots, but they deserve special attention.
Black soils are soils with a high potential for fertility. Their stable granular stone structure, high humus content, high percentage of calcium, and good water absorption and retention make them an excellent choice for growing crops. However, like other soils, they tend to be depleted by constant use, so after 2-3 years of development, it is recommended to apply organic fertilizers and sow glycosides on the beds.
Moreover, Chernozem can hardly be called a light soil, on the basis of which they are usually loosened by the introduction of sand or peat. In addition, it can be acidic, neutral, and alkaline, which also requires some adjustments.
To understand this, you really have to take the soil out and squeeze it in the palm of your hand, and you should get a dark, oily handprint.
Some people mix black soil with peat – here’s a trick to check that too: squeeze the moist soil in your hand and put it in the sun – the peat will dry out immediately, while the black soil will retain moisture for a long time.
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