It All Begins with Soil

After my last Master Gardener class I realized my brain was leaking.  My classmates keep mentioning the amount of information we are getting. Until last week I had not thought about how much I have been learning or forgetting.  So far I have enjoyed the classes, and do not like forgetting some of the finer points or fascinating asides. Our most recent class was on soil.  Soil can make or break gardeners.  There are several soil characteristics that can help a gardener improve productivity and planting success.  One of the easiest tests, that can be done is a pH test.  Buy a pH test kit from your local Cooperative Extension office.  I have heard mixed reviews about the accuracy of kits purchased at stores, especially inexpensive kits.  Knowing pH, or level of acidity or alkalinity, of your soil can make a big difference when growing vegetables, flowers, and shrubs.  Blueberries like an acidic soil.  If your soil has a high alkalinity blueberries will not produce well or may even fail.  So test your soil, and know what to plant or what not to plant. Also having a soil tested, at a lab, for minerals and nutrients is very helpful.  I, like many of you, selected your garden location and then wondered about the soil.  Now I am wondering how do I improve or replenish my soil for next year. Do I fertilize?  How much fertilizer do I need?  Does one bed need more compost than another?  A soil test can answer all these questions.  Many people in my class avoid using synthetic fertilizers, like Miracle Grow, for a variety of reasons.  I do not use synthetic fertilizers, but learned I still could be adding to the problem of over fertilization.  How? Well, I do not know what my soil needs, and by just adding compost or manure may not be helpful if my soil has an abundance of those nutrients.  So get your soil tested. The information you get can help you save time and money, but most importantly help your garden be successful year after year. A significant influence on your soil’s pH and make up is the soil deep underground, often called bedrock or parent material.  This soil moves up and is what your garden bed will be like over the long-term.  Through a very cool website you can learn what your parent material is.  The USDA has a map of what your soil is.

This is the USDA soil map start page. To locate your soil type click the green circle.

Once you click the green circle.  You can then enter your address.  Once you see your home click the “AOI” button and draw a box around the area of your home. Once you have selected your AOI, then select the “Soil Map” tab near the top of the page.

This is the soil map of my home area.

On the left are the soil types in my area.  You can select them and get a full report of each type.  I have different types of silt loam in my area.  You may have sand or clay.  You can learn about what you should add to your soil to improve it to grow what you want to grow.  To do your own exploration us this link the to USDA site:

There is still a lot to clean up in the garden.  It has been difficult to get into the garden, the ground has been wet.  My soil can get compacted easily so I try not to walk in the garden.  Hopefully with some good weather I can get the garden cleaned out.

I hope you have a good week.



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