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Soil for Vegetable Growing. Basic Garden Soils.

Soil is important for plant and therefore all animal life. One of the most important aspects of soil insofar as vegetable growing in concerned, is that of soil texture. Of course the acidity or Ph level of soil  is also important, but this little detail can normally be rectified relatively easily. Not so with soil texture.

The soil texture - that is to say, sandy, loam, clay and silt soils - has been built up and determined over many years - centuries even. The only exception to this being if your soil has been imported from another area - as is sometimes the case with new house building projects, or if your predecessor was an avid gardener for many years and in that time, altered the basic structure-texture of the soil.

Soil Texture TriangleIf you have inherited a specific type of soil structure for your vegetable plot - such as sandy or clay soils, then it will require massive input of time and materials to substantially change that soil. That is not to say that any soil cannot be improved. both Clay and Sandy soils - together with all those soils types that fall between those extremes - can be improved considerably with the simple addition of organic matter.

However, if you have a clay or sandy soil for your vegetable plot, then it will remain that for the foreseeable future. Far better to find out how to manage that particular soil, and more importantly, grow the vegetables that are suited to your own soil type. Whilst we are basically addressing the subject of physical soil texture, the same is true of the other consideration for garden soils - Soil Ph level.

Constituents of Vegetable Plot Soils

In  any of its many and varied forms, soil is a complex mixture of basic elements. If one of these elements are missing, then it is no longer a 'soil'.

  • Mineral element of the soil, which determines its physical classification of sandy, silty, clay etc - is derived from the rock structure either immediately below the top soil, or which has been transferred by geophysical means over the centuries. These can include soil soil movement by way of water, erosion and general soil movement. Sand and silt are basically small particles of the rock formation.
  • Organic Constituent of garden soils consists of any matter that once lived, including vegetation or animal sources. Normally dead vegetation such as leaves and plant roots are the main source of organic matter in the soil.It is distinct from the mineral rock element of the soil. For a soil to be classed as fertile, it will normally contain organic content. You can have either clay or sandy soil which is also rich in organic matter, but a clay or sandy soil is still that - regardless of organic content,.
  • Water in the Soil - Absolutely essential to plant life and soil fertility. If a rich organic soil has no water, it can become as much a desert as a sand soil. Plants need water to live; without soil water or moisture, a soil cannot be fertile.
  • Air - Good soil structure allows for the provision of air and also water-borne oxygen which is essential for plant roote to develop. Soil with poor structure - such as compacted soils - will exclude air from the below-ground needs of the growing plant.

Basic articles

There is a more substantial article on garden soils here. 


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