Before planting it’s important to consider some factors that determine the type of garden soil you have.
Garden Soil is basically made up of three components; solid material (organic matter & minerals), water and air. The minerals in the soil determine its texture (clay, silt and sand). Each of these has varying characteristics. Sandy soil tends to have larger particles and holds less water, which in turn makes it less fertile. Clay soils have the opposite characteristic; clay is made up of very fine particles, which holds water too well. The mix of these types determines the soil’s structure. Loam being most desirable type.
A quick test to determine what type of soil structure you have; grab a small amount of wet soil in your hand and try to roll it. If It crumbles easily it’s sand, if it stays together very well it’s clay. The desired result would be a soil that rolls up easily but falls apart when rolled thinly this is loam.
Soil PH and Salinity
PH and salinity are two other factors to consider before planting. The PH (acidity-less than 7 /alkalinity higher than 7) and salinity of the soil will determine what plants will thrive in your garden. Luckily both of these factors can be adjusted to create an ideal environment for your plants. You can determine PH by purchasing a ph test kit at your local hardware store or online. Testing for salinity is more difficult and requires special equipment. The non-scientific way to tell if your soil is salty is to observe for a white salt deposit residue on the soil surface.
Soil amendments are basically materials added to improve the quality of your garden soil. If your soil is less than desirable don’t fret it can easily be improved.
Improving Soil Texture – Adding organic matter such as compost, grass clippings, manure or peat moss improves any type of soil. Once applied gently work into your soil.
Balancing Soil PH – PH is very important because it regulates how available the nutrients are to your plants. PH can be adjusted and will greatly benefit your plants. In order to raise the PH (make the soil more alkaline) organically you can add dolomitic limestone, hardwood ashes, crushed eggshells or Ground Oyster Shell. To lower the PH (make the soil more acidic) you can add garden sulfur.
Adjusting Soil Salinity – You can wash away excess salts from your soil; by once or twice a year watering slowly for several hours.