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What sort of soil do you have?

Wednesday, November 09th, 2011 | Author:

One of the first things you must determine before starting on your vegetable garden is what sort of soil you have in the area you will be planting. The soil type can affect the amount of preparation required, what type of vegetables you can grow and how productive the garden will be. As you read through this article two things should stand out: the soil type does not necessarily preclude growing vegetables, and the importance of compost.

Determining the soil type is not difficult as soil can be roughy grouped into 3 types:

  • light
  • medium
  • heavy

Light soils consist of sand and gravels. Although easy to work with they are not considered to be good soils for growing vegetables as they do not hold moisture well and dry out very quickly on warm days. Also they do not contain many of the minerals and nutrients which are crucial to growing vegetables. However, light soils can easily be improved with the addition of organic matter, compost, fertilisers and wetting agents. Another positive is the fact they warm up quickly in spring offering the possibility of earlier planting of spring vegetables than other soil types.

Medium soils consist of a mixture of sand, gravels and clay particles. These are generally considerd to be the best type of soils for growing vegetables for a number of reasons:

  • they hold moisture well and will not dry out as quickly as light soils
  • they drain well and do not get waterlogged as heavy soils do
  • they contain and hold a good mixture of minerals and nutrients
  • they are relatively easy to work

If you are lucky enough to have this type of soil you will find that your vegetable garden will be very productive and produce the best vegetables!

Heavy soils are made up mainly of clay particles. Possibly the worst type of soil for growing vegetables but do not despair, like light soils they can be improved. The problems with clay soils are the fact that they retain moisture and easily become waterlogged and when wet they are heavy and will stick to everything, tools, boots, clothes, etc. In summer they dry out and can become rock hard and almost impossible to work. But the addition of some sand and gravel (light soil) and plenty of organic matter can greatly improve the condition of heavy soils.

Conclusion
It doesn’t really matter what type of soil you have as most problems can be overcome by adding such things as organic matter, compost, fertilisers and wetting agents. Also, it is possible to build a garden bed from scratch with soil purchased from a garden centre, or of course you can resort to containers and pots. So there is no excuse, get out there and start planning!

Note: it is possible to get really technical and bogged down with soil types and soil condition. Soil testing is something you will hear a lot about. Personally I have never bothered with soil testing although these days small cheap soil testers are available and can help you identify soil problems. However, if you prepare the soil properly with the addition of plenty of organic matter, unless there is some inherent problem with the soil such as contamination, you will have no real problem growing vegetables.

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Category: composting, soil & soil improvement, vegetable garden planner

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