Soil. It’s the backbone of your garden and the foundation for all your plants. But, as important as it is to gardening, it’s not the prettiest thing to look at. Soil may not be the sexiest thing in your garden, but it’s not what’s on the outside that counts – it’s what’s on the inside. As gardeners, we know the importance of a good, quality soil when growing our plants and the power a proper soil amendment can have.
What is Soil?
Soil is an incredibly complex combination of gas, water, organic matter, minerals, and living organisms. It’s made up of literally everything that has ever walked the same path we’re walking on right now – and here in Texas that could even mean a T-Rex! Pretty cool, right?
When it comes to gardening, the components we tend to care most about are those that indicate the quality of the soil. These include organic matter, water retention, and drainage. These are what make up a good foundation for our plants, helping them to grow healthy and strong.
Kinds of Soil
Most soil types can be broken down into 6 general categories:
- Clay: This type of soil contains a wealth of mineral particles, but their tiny size makes it prone to retaining water and getting packed down.
- Chalky: This type of soil usually doesn’t have a water retention issue, but it will often have many stones. It usually isn’t crawling with organic
matter, so it will need frequent fertilization.
- Loamy: This is what we know as “black gold” in the gardening world, and it’s generally considered the holy grail of soil. It has plenty of nutrients, a great structure, and holds just the right amount of water for our plants.
- Peaty: This soil will usually have great drainage, but it’s too acidic for organic matter to break down.
- Silty: This type of soil will be packed with more nutrients than a sandy soil, but it holds water almost as bad as clay.
- Sandy: Like what we find on the beach, this type of soil has large-grain minerals, making it impossible for water and nutrients to stick around.
What is a Soil Amendment?
With some garden projects, like container or raised bed gardening, we have the option of buying soil that is expertly catered to the plants we’ll be growing. But when it comes to our bedding plants, we’re pretty stuck with the soil we’ve got, which can often use some amendments to get it up to snuff.
Soil amendments are things you can add to the soil that will help change the structure to make it better for your plants to grow in. For example, if you’re looking at a chalky, silty, or sandy soil, a soil amendment can be mixed in to counteract the issues and make it a better soil overall with time.
How to Amend Your Soil
If you’re one of the lucky few with a naturally loamy soil, then congrats! You’re all ready to get started with your planting. If you’re on the majority side, though, with a soil that could use some help, here are some of the most common solutions for making that happen:
Organic Matter – This could be a natural fertilizer, like manure, or even just your composted scraps from the kitchen. It adds nutrients and structure to the soil to bring more of our famous southern hospitality to your plants. If your soil is chalky, sandy, or clay, this is the amendment for you.
Humates Plus – This is a pelletized product that will loosen clay soils, provide carbon and rich minerals to all plants and build big roots. It is easy to work into the soil or spread in the lawn and is great to add to any type of soil to give it a boost.
Liquid Molasses and Seaweed – These are great to add to your soil to boost your microbial activity and strengthen overall plant health.
If you’re not quite sure just what kind of soil you have – that’s okay! Soil testing kits can be a great tool for helping you diagnose your soil’s condition. Once you know what you’re working with, you’ll know exactly what amendment you’ll need for a soil-ution that will give you a happy, healthy, and thriving garden for years to come!
Wow, it’s interesting to know that in the gardening community, loamy soil is referred to as “black gold” and is often regarded as the ultimate soil. My mom and I are planning to get into gardening and turn our backyard into a vegetable area we can grow and harvest our food. We’ll keep this in mind as we look for soil supplies that can accommodate everything we need for our desired landscape.