Category Archives: Soil

Feeding the Soil One Vital Aspect of Organic Gardening

Feeding the Soil One Vital Aspect of Organic Gardening
Feeding the Soil One Vital Aspect of Organic Gardening

There is an important aspect of organic gardening that you can very well relate to. Imagine this. You are hungry. You haven’t been fed. You haven’t taken a bath. You haven’t pampered yourself. You’ve spent so much time working and taking care of others, but you haven’t tended yourself for your own good.

How would you feel? For a time being, you may be able to accept the fact. You may still tire yourself out without asking for anything in return. But as the days go by, you will feel the negative effects of the situation. You will no longer have the kind of energy that you used to. Your body will deteriorate until it can no longer function for the things that it used to do.

How is this related to the organic method of gardening? You can actually compare this to the state of the soil. Soil is a very important aspect in this type and all the other kinds of gardening. This is the base of everything. This will be the bed, or the house of your plants. You must choose the right one in the first place.

Depending on your location, the soils that you may acquire vary on such factor. You should base the decision in picking out the plants on the types of soils that are available in your area. Once you have picked the right kind, you are now on you way to the first steps of your gardening venture using the organic method.

Relating to the sample above, the soil must never be left untended. It must never go hungry. Or else, what happened to the example may also happen to the soil. You have to feed the soil. You have to bathe it. And you have to take care of it just like how you tend to yourself or to the plants situated on your garden.

You may know from your grade school days that the soil needs water, sunlight and air. But you are doing everything organically now. Does it carry out any differences? Yes, a lot. Although you still have to feed your soil and the plants on it enough sunlight, water and air, you have to add something else. You’ve got to have organic matters placed on the soil.

Have you ever heard of composting? This is the process where you culminate decaying matters like leaves, grasses, peelings of fruits or vegetables, even manures and fish heads to act as your soil’s fertilizer. This is organic remember? You cannot resort to anything synthetic. This is one proof that this process entails a lot of hard work than you can ever imagine.

Not only are you going to feed the soil, you also have to attend to it regularly. Mulching is like massaging the soil to keep its shape. This way, you will be able to get rid of the pests that your soil has gotten through the days or months, however long you have been gardening.

This will actually help you prevent acquiring bigger problems. There are many types of soils that need certain care and attention. For example, clay can hold up water better than the sandy kind. You have to know those kind of details to be able to improve on your organic gardening venture.

What Soil Type Do You Have? 3 Ways to Find Out

SproutWhether you’re a seasoned gardener with a big vegetable plot or a flower-lover with lots of flower beds, one of the most essential predictors of your horticultural success is your soil type. Too sandy and it won’t hold enough moisture. Too clayey and it will be heavy and difficult to work with. Too silty and your plot will not drain properly. It’s tough to achieve just the right balance, but when you do, your green thumb will flourish.

The first step to improving your soil is understanding what soil type you have in the first place. There are 3 basic types of soil: sandy, clay, and silty. Ideally, you want a balance of all three ingredients, as they all have benefits when present in moderation.

1. The Squeeze Test

To do the squeeze test, wait until your soil is damp but not wet. Take a handful of soil and rub it between your fingers. If it feels gritty, it’s mostly sand. If it feels slick and smooth, it’s mostly clay.

2. The Roll Testlandsoils1

Another easy test is to take a small handful of damp (but not soaking wet) soil and roll it into a cylindrical shape between your palms. Then, try to hold it vertically without it breaking. If you can hold it vertically without it breaking, you have mostly clay soil. If you can roll it into a cylinder but it breaks when you try to hold it vertically, you probably have between 25 and 50 percent clay. If you aren’t able to even roll it into a cylinder, you have mostly sandy soil.

3. The Jar Test

This one is for all the scientist types out there. It takes a bit longer to do, but the results are much more accurate and more specific.

  1. Gather in a bucket soil samples from around your garden or flower beds. This will give you a sample that averages out the small variations that probably occur across your property.
  2. Mix them all together, and scoop out about a cup of the mixture.
  3. Spread the soil out on a flat surface and remove any roots, rocks, or other debris. Use something hard and flat to crush the soil into a powder, then let it dry completely.
  4. Put a one-inch thick layer of this soil into the bottom of a quart-sized clear glass jar.
  5. Fill the jar two-thirds of the way up with water, then add either a pinch of salt or 1 tsp. of liquid dish detergent. This will help the soil particles separate from one another.
  6. Shake vigorously.
  7. Set the jar down and let the soil particles settle naturally into layers. The sand will settle quickly and form the bottom layer. After a few hours, the silt will settle and form the next layer. You should be able to see the difference between the large sand particles and the smaller silt particles. The clay can take as long as several days to fully settle.
  8. Once everything has settled, measure the total height of the soil sample and the height of each layer. You can then calculate the percentage of your soil that each soil type comprises. For example, if the soil is 1 inch thick and 1/2 inch is sand, your soil is 50% sand.

Once you have identified what kind of soil you have, you can find ways to optimize it for planting. While there are different short-term and long-term tactics you can take to improve each type, there is also one key trick that will improve all three types. Check it out here!

Spring Soil Preparation Made Easy!

Spring has arrived.  The ground has thawed, the birds are back, and you’re ready to breathe life back into your garden.  But that hard, dry soil isn’t going to nurture any new plant life.  Proper soil preparation is essential to a productive growing season.  Whether you are growing veggies to enjoy or flowers to beautify your property, well-prepared soil will ensure your gardening efforts don’t go unrewarded.

Weed It.

Start by getting rid of any stray weeds that may have sprouted since last fall or other debris that may have made it into your planting area.  When weeding, be sure to pull plants out by their root, as any bit of the root left in the soil is likely to re-grow.

Soil TesterTest It.

Test your soil for nutrient levels and pH balance.  An electric soil tester is the easiest, most accurate way to do this.  A pH level below 7.0 indicates acidic soil, while a level higher than 7.0 indicates higher alkalinity.  Most plants grow best in a neutral pH environment.    Some plants, however, such as astilbe, bleeding heart, foxglove, and rhododendrons thrive in particularly acidic soil.  Evergreen shrubs and deciduous shrubs, on the other hand, thrive in more alkaline soil.  Check the ideal pH level for the plants you intend to plant.  You can purchase soil acid neutralizer if your acidity is higher than you’d like, or add limestone if you need to add acidity.

It is also important to remember that last year’s plants probably ate up a lot of the nutrients from your soil.  Added nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium will help this year’s plants grow.  A fertilizer with the “N-P-K” rating on the label will restore all these essentials.  The best soil amendment, however, is organic matter.  There are many good artificial soil amendments out there, but nothing beats Mother Nature in longevity, economy, and effectiveness.  If you don’t already, consider composting to give some natural nutrients back to your garden.

ROTHogTill It.


Soil compaction occurs when the soil particles become too close together to allow water or nutrients to be absorbed.  Tilling decompacts these particles and allows all the good things your plants need to be absorbed into the soil.

Till before adding your soil amendments (fertilizers, amendments to raise or lower acidity, or compost).  The DR® line of Roto-Hog™ Power Tillers tow behind your ATV or tractor and make tilling as easy as a ride through your garden.  They also allow you to make precise adjustments to the tilling depth from either a manual lever or remote controlled power actuator.  In the spring, before you have planted, till to a depth of at least 7 inches.  For smaller gardens, or for cleaning up in between rows during the growing season, check out the DR® Roto-Hog Mini Tiller.  This little beast comes standard with electric starting and plenty of power!

Feed It.

After tilling, add your soil amendments.  The uncompacted soil will be able to better mix with these materials.  Read and follow package instructions for artificial soil amendments, and if you are using compost, spread a 1- to 4-inch thick layer over the top of your garden soil.  If your compost is fully decomposed, it should be dark and earthy-smelling with few or no visible bits of materials that have not broken down.  If your compost has not fully broken down — i.e. there are many visible bits of non-broken-down materials — it is still okay to use on your garden, but keep in mind that it will rob the soil of some of its nitrogen in order to continue to break down.  Consider adding nitrogen to counter this effect, in the form of manure or an artificial nitrogen amendment.

Till your garden a second time after adding your amendments.  This will mix them in and ensure that all those good things you’ve added get to your seeds and plant roots, where they’re needed most.

And now your soil is ready!  Happy planting!