Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bridging the Soil Knowledge Gap Part 1

My mother-in-law met the authors of this book No Guff Vegetable Gardening in Calgary, Alberta, where she lives and where they live. She thought of me right away and my affinity for getting my hands dirty, so she bought me a copy. It's so nice to have a book about Canadian climate and the kind of gardening that we do here.

At first glance, this book seemed a bit haphazard in its organization and I wasn't sure I could get much from it. But because of its small chunks of information and magazine-like style, I think I've learned more information because it doesn't overwhelm the mind.

With this book in hand, I sat down after Mary Mary's last post about Property "Issues" determined to learn something and teach something about soil and gardening. So here goes:
What makes good soil? According to No Guff Vegetable Gardening good soil is made up of rock, organic matter (dead stuff) and weather.

Soil can be classified by textures based on the size of its particles. Sand has the biggest size of particle. Clay has a mid-sized particle and silt has the finest or smallest particles. If someone mentions their garden has "heavy soil" that means it's 40-100% clay, which is sticky and hard to turn. I have lots of clay in my garden. And I usually say this to people with a dismal shake of my head and when my eyes meet theirs there is pity in them. However, this book makes note of one of the great qualities of clay in soil, which is its ability to retain water.

In this book, I came across a table of each type of soil and the Do's and Don't's of ways to amend the soil. I began to copy it down carefully until I noticed that no matter what your type of soil or even if you aren't sure what type of soil you have, the thing to do is add organic matter and encourage microbial growth. Don't walk on your soil when it's wet (especially with clay-y soil) as this compacts it.

There can be other issues with soil, such as high salt content or acidity/alkalinity issues, but these are rarer. Even if the pH in your soil is slightly off, the authors of No Guff say that adding more organic matter can help with these moderate issues. And the best and most economical way to add organic matter to your garden is to compost.  More on that tomorrow!

- Miss Greenish Thumb

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is great and super helpful. I share 3 of 4 property "issues" with Mary Mary!

Looking forward to the next posts...