Garden Soil Texture and Testing
The most important factor when beginning to cultivate your garden is to know your soils texture whether it‘s sand, silt, clay, or something else. Testing the texture is something that every gardener can do at home. To get a general idea of your soil texture, the test you need to perform is quite simple. Take a handful of moist soil and roll it between your palms until it forms a sausage shape. If it feels gritty and breaks apart immediately, the soil is predominately sand. If the soil feels smooth, and holds its shape for a short time before breaking apart, it's mostly silt. However, if it feels sticky and holds together, then it‘s clay. Even without knowing the soil's exact texture, it's a safe bet that adding organic matter will help.
Soil Testing It really is helpful and can save you money if you know the makeup of your soil. If your garden is growing well, an argument could be made not to bother testing at all. However, if some of your plants aren't growing as well as you would like, or you are wondering if you are using the right amount of fertilizer, a soil test is the place to start. It will give you a periodic snapshot of your soil‘s mineral health. Tests are most useful when done regularly [every three to four years), at the same time of year [spring is fine, but autumn is best because that‘s when fertility is lowest).
A sample test: Soil pH. This is measured on a scale of 1 (acid) to 14 (alkaline). Most garden crops grow well at a pH of 6 to 7, but specific crops such as blueberries and azaleas may need a lower (more acidic) pH. Soils tend to be more acidic in high—rainfall areas while drier climates can have more alkaline soils. In general lime is used to raise pH, while sulphur is recommended to lower it. If your soil also lacks magnesium, dolomitic limestone (which contains magnesium along with calcium) is recommended. Apply lime and sulphur in summer when the soils are warm and microorganism activity is high.
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