Thursday, August 27, 2009

Preparing the Soil

Loess field in GermanyImage via Wikipedia

Preparing the Soil

A very important aspect of planting vegetable gardens is preparing the soil. It doesn't matter whether you plan to raise vegetables in a small plot of land or in a plant box. Soil preparation is an essential step. Soil can be categorized as sandy or clay-like, with silt being a fine mixture of both sand and clay. Clay particles in sand help retain water longer as well as make the soil absorb water faster. Sandy particles in soil makes the water flow through it easily and lets the air in so that the roots can breathe.

Recently I had a friend who's tomato plant leaves looked like they were shriveling up and he could not figure out why. When I looked at them, it was clear that his plants were suffocating and needed oxygen. His soil needed some sand worked in to allow proper drainage and oxygen.

The best way to go when preparing the soil for your vegetable garden is to make the soil a good balance of clay, silt, and sand. Ideally, it should be 40% silt, 40% sand, and 20% clay. To test it, you can scoop up soil and form it into a ball using your hand. It should not be too hard as to not crumble when you poke at it, but it should also be sticky enough that it retains its shape even if you don't press it too hard with your hands.

Planting vegetable gardens require a lot of patience. You have to find what works for you, and experiment on getting the right type of soil for the right type of vegetables. All the hard work will be worth it, though, once you experience eating something that grew from a garden that you planted yourself.


Happy gardening,
--Greg

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