What Do You Mean By Healthy Organic Gardening Soil
The best garden soil is one of the essentials for having healthy plant growth. However, having the best organic soil is one of the essentials for following the steps of how to start an organic garden without negatively affecting the environment.
Such a soil is full of humus, which is the end product of decomposing things such as compost and leaves. It is loose and soft, contains enough air needed by the roots, retains moisture, drains well, and improves texture.
Above all, the organic gardening soil is rich in minerals and beneficial organisms required for retaining the quality for a strong growth. Lastly, an appropriate pH level is also a crucial aspect.
Well, the fact is that it is rare to have such a soil naturally available. Therefore, it becomes essential to improve the available soil. This small guide is dedicated to make this task simple for you by telling you what a healthy garden soil is.
Know What Makes Up a Healthy Garden Soil
There is really no need to lose hope if your soil is too sandy, acidic, or stony. It is actually easy to make it friendly for your plants, provided you know about its various aspects.
1. Essential Components and their Proportions
Let’s first know the components of healthy organic gardening soil first!
- Weathered Rock: Has a share of 50% and appears as smallest (clay), medium (silt), and largest particles (sand). Factors such as rain, freezing point, and wind break down the rock into these particles.
- Air: Has a share of not more than 25% and hides in spaces of pores, which are the openings between various particles. Air keeps the beneficial microorganisms alive and aids in supplying oxygen to plants and nitrogen to their roots. To retain this air, it is recommended not to step on planting soil. Silt and heavy clay soils have very dense, small particles due to which they have little air. On the other hand, sandy soils have too big or sparse particles that trigger quick decomposition of organic matter. So, good soil features an apt space between its particles.
- Water: Has a share of almost 25% and resides in the pore spaces with air. If the level of water increases, it removes air space due to which the organisms are forced to come out. Sandy soils have much pore space that results in quick water drainage. On the other hand, in dense clay or silt soils, water logging is an issue. So, it is best to have both large and small pore spaces.
- Organic Matter: Has a share of 5 to 10% after you add, but plays a very important role of a preserver. It holds both nutrients and moisture, provides food to organisms, and creates air pockets. For holding air and water, the matter binds with silt, clay, or sand to form larger particles. You can easily create your own compost for organic container gardening or gardening on raised beds. Applying organic matter makes soil less sandy and improves clay-based or silty soil.
- Organisms: Are a horde of living creatures that form the food web of soil. The collection includes several visible and invisible creatures along with plant roots. It performs several functions such as decomposing organic matter, breaking down soil contaminants, and making nitrogen, fertilizers, and minerals available in a form that roots can absorb. Their excretion gives you the most desired crumbly texture. Your job is to give them what they need to thrive: Water, oxygen (in well-aerated soil), and food (organic matter, not chemical fertilizers also else they die).
2. Macronutrients and Micronutrients
Usually, good garden soil is also rich in macronutrients that plants absorb in large amounts. While there are more than 15 such nutrients, potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus are the most crucial ones.
Many organic fertilizers offer all three nutrients but it is always wise to check out as NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium number). Secondary nutrients or micronutrients such as calcium, sulfur, and magnesium are also essential for many plants.
3. Texture and Structure
Along with the components, the structure and texture of soil also contributes to its overall health.
Crumbly texture of soil is good, wherein crumbs exist all over the top. Texture usually refers to the share of sand, clay, and silt in the soil.
It is ideal to have each in equal proportions, which make the soil loamy. Such a texture facilitates roots to spread and preserves adequate moisture and air pockets between the tiny particle spaces.
It is easy to determine the texture:
Procedure: Place some soil in your palm, dampen it a bit, and run the mixture between the fingers. Observations: Sandy soil will give you a coarse feel, silty one gives smooth and moist feel, and clay-based soil gives you a harsh feel when dry and slippery or sticky feel when wet.
Coming to the soil structure, it denotes how the three types of particles fit together. The structure is good when the soil particles remain together when squeezed, but crumble when disturbed. Consider applying organic mulches for improving the structure and preventing evaporation.
4. The pH Level
image by flickr
Lastly, you need to know about the soil pH level, which denotes relative acidity or alkalinity. It measures the ratio of hydrogen ions to hydroxyl ions (positive to negative ions) in the soil water. If the ratio is equal, the pH level is neutral (pH 7).
When the hydrogen ions are more, the soil is acidic with a pH level ranging from 1 to 6.5. Similarly, if the hydroxyl ions are more, the soil is alkaline (6.8 to 14).
Most essential nutrients are soluble when the pH level is between 6.5 and 6.8. As a result, this range is recommended for most plants. Anything lower or higher makes nutrients unavailable.
You cannot change the pH level overnight. It is a gradual process spanning across one or two growing seasons.
Applying organic matter generously helps in controlling pH imbalances. You can even consider options such as powdered limestone or wood ash for alkalinity and sulfur for acidity.
It is best to start with a soil test and then take the necessary steps to improve its quality as per the report. And yes, avoid preparing the soil if it is too wet or two dry, as doing will only damage it.
Well, this is just the beginning of improving the quality of organic gardening soil. It is actually a constant process that needs through knowledge for care.
Photo by hans s