A Little Bit About Garden Soil
So what kind of soil do you have? It’s brown and dirty, no? And does it matter anyway?
Ideally you want your soil to be a decent balance of clay, sand and organic stuff. You can buy a soil testing kit to test the acidity, but perhaps the most basic thing to do is a little experiment – which little kids will love!
- Get a jam jar and fill about one third with soil from about a foot below the surface of the garden or allotment.
- Fill another third of the jam jar with water and give it a good shake (but do put a lid on first!)
- Leave it on a window ledge for a couple of hours
- Once the mixture has settled, you’ll be able to see –organic matter will float to the top and the heavy sand will be at the bottom, with the finer sand and clay on top.
- Think of this as a ‘graph’ of the composition of your soil and adjust accordingly.
Sandy soils drain quite quickly, so they can’t hold moisture or nutrients for long enough for plants to get what they need. If you have sandy soil, the best thing to do to improve it is to dig in plenty of ‘organic matter’. This could be anything from old potting compost from gro bags, garden compost and well-rotted manure.
Clay soils have exactly the opposite problem – they are so sticky and compacted that the moisture can’t drain effectively and the ground can’t breath. So the ground gets soggy and although there are often tons of nutrients in it, wet soil will stunt root growth. The best way to improve it is to add grit or gritty sand, which will improve both the drainage and help the air circulate.
Loamy Soil is the best kind of soil you can have in your garden or allotment – it’s neither sandy nor is it sticky clay. It drains well, but retains nutrients and there’s plenty air space so the roots of plants can grow