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Basic Soil Types

It is important for you to understand the characteristics of the soil you've got to work with, for its physical composition determines to a large degree how early in the season you can plant and whether your growing crops will receive enough water and air at root level. It is very good to remember HEALTHLY SOIL=HEALTHY PLANTS.

All soil is made up of three basic sort of particles---sand, silt, and clay---to varying proportions. Any given soil will have more of one componet or another, and the presence of this particle in large quantities determines the characteristics of the soil.

If you go out to your garden and pick up a handful of soil and rub it between your fingers you will be able to tell. It it's sandy soil, you'll be able to see the sand with your eyes.

Sandy soil feels grainy and gritty and falls apart when you try to squeeze it into a ball. Gardening in sandy soil is a challenge, for the large sand particles encourage water and soluable nutrients to flow through rapidly, often before the roots have a chance to absorb them. This nutrient leaching means that sandy soils are often deficient in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. On the plus side, this soil does dry out and warm up early in the season, so it's possible to get strted earlier wit hspring crops. You should be aware though, that later inot the hot stretch of the season, there will be little water held in reserve for the plants to draw upon.

A soil laden with silt particles will have a fine, powdery textuure like flour and will have the silky feel of talcum powder between your fingers. Silt particles are much smaller than sand particles so you won't be able to see them. Although silt is an important component of a good textured soil, too much silt can be too much of a good thing. A predominately silty soil is considered a light soil and will exhibit some of the characteristics of a sandy soil.

If you soil reveals rock-hard lumps under dry conditions or sticky, rubgery, greasyclumps under moist condition, your soil is composed of mostly clay particles. When you squeeze a ball o this soil together in your palm, it forms a sticky, dense masss that won't fall apart easily. Clay soil is slow ot absorb water, but once it becomes wet, it is very slow to dry out. It usually stays too cold ans wet in early spring for the gardener to hope for much luck with early-season crops. You must be careful not ot work clay soil wheni= it is still very wet, for rocklike clods will form that are nearly impossible to break apart. There is also a little nutrient leaching in this type of soil.

If your soil looks like it's made of various-sized crumbs tha mold together in alball when you squeeze them, but fall apart easily when you poke the ball wit h your finger, you've got a loamy soil. In general, loam conssts of approximately 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and 20 percent clay. This ideal soil retains water well but is loose enough to allow the excess to drain away. There's is seldom a problem with nutrient loss through leaching.

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