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Soil Testing

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daniel77 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote daniel77 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Soil Testing
    Posted: 21 December 2011 at 14:17
The subject of soil and amending it seems to come up quite a bit, so I thought I'd put a few thoughts down. First of all, you must know what type of soil you have. You can easily do this by taking a soil sample to you local county extension service agent. The test is only about $10 and will tell you all you need to know about your soil and how to properly amend it.
IMO, the most important aspect of your soil is the pH. Different plants prefer different pH ranges, so, I recommend having two plots or areas of your garden. Plants which prefer acidic soil can have their, and mere feet away, you can have alkaline loving plants thriving. It would take too much time to go into which plants prefer what, but a simple google search will tell you. The pH basically makes certain minerals and nutrients available. So, you could have a very fertile piece of ground with a bad pH and all that fertility would not be of any use to the plant. It is imperative that you get the test done, or you won't know where you are, or how much lime or sulphur to add. You may well be surprised at how much lime is needed to lower the pH 2 pts. Also be sure to take samples from the exact area that you are growing in. You may be surprised at how much difference can be between your front and back yards.
 
Soil particle texture is also very important. Soil particles vary in size from Sand-largest, Silt-middle, and Clay-smallest. This matters because all things, not just water will be flushed more quickly through a sandy soil, whereas a clay soil is hard to get anything (water or fertilizer) to penetrate. Knowing what your soil profile is will help you to amend it in such a way to help your plants out. For instance, growing root crops requires a very loose soil for best outcome. A potato can't expand well if the soil is hard and constricting. Watering is also very affected here. Many people don't know it, but plants need air in the soil. When you kill a plant by overwatering, you have actually suffocated it by replacing the air space in the soil with water.
 
Organic content is also important. Soils high in organic matterial appear dark whereas soil low in organic matterial are pale. The surprising aspect here is the depth. You can have a soil with a very high organic content on the surface, but not very far below the surface. This is common in woodland areas. Organic materials provide nutrition for your garden as well as helping the soil to retain moisture. Compost is very beneficial, but be careful what material you use. Certain manures, like chicken, can be very high in nitrogen and will tend to burn your plants if not composted long enough. Other organic materials, like wood chips, will initially remove vast amounts of nutrients from the soil before they are fully composted. Leaves and grass clippings are generally safe. The main issue with the grass clippings is to let the weed seeds finish germiniating and being killed off by turning frequently before using, otherwise you've just planted more in you gardent than you've planned for.
 
Good luck and fire away with any more questions.
 
If what you're serving comes on a cracker, you'd better have a lot of it.
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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 December 2011 at 15:59
hey, dan -
 
very good information there, and i plan on putting some of it to use this spring. hopefully by then, i'll have my roto-tiller rebuilt and will be able to give my garden the attention that i have been denying these past few years. our backyard garden plot seems to grow a lot of things well, but because i never seem to have time to mulch and hoe, it gets choked out and we end up with a lot less than we could have - except tomatoes ~ we seem to grow tomatoes very well no matter how much the garden is neglected! hopefully, having a working roto-tiller and planting rows far enough apart to use it will fit in with my limited tme available, and it will help things grow better next year.
 
based on what you said above, our soil seems to be somewhere between silt and clay, which makes sense, considering that the location of the town used to be the bed of the missouri river, before glaciation pushed the course of the river south. because of this, unless the soil is turned a lot, it tends to get pretty ahrd ont he surface, and i am sure that it isn't allowed a chance to aerate well. any suggested fix, such as adding sand?
 
 
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daniel77 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote daniel77 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 December 2011 at 12:50
For most plants, old silty river overflow land is the best that you can get. If your soil is tending toward more clay like, then the addition of some sand, or just good old topsoil tilled in should help out quite a bit. Adding any type of organic material, such as leaves or yard clippings will help out as well with the compaction. Soil compaction is definitely not a good thing. If you ever wonder why those pathways through grass, say cutting off the corners of sidewalks and such, never seem to recover and grow grass, it is because of soil compaction.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 December 2011 at 12:55
aye, soil compaction it is ~ the land is very, very fertile, but it does have that problem.
 
i'll see what i can do about it over the coming year. our sand here along the milk river is very fine, but i might see if i can get a supply of something coarser, and will definitely see about adding topsiol and other organic material.
 
we dump our lawn clippings on, usually - i try to get the kids to put it between the rows as a mulch (to be tilled back into the ground the enxt year) but they never listen.
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