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The soil odyssey
Been gardening vegetables in the same plot for 10+ years?
Me too. But year after year with meager yields and frustrating plant failures, it has helped me greatly to read about soil and put in the effort to get the perfect mix.
The one word I came across which any and all advisories will give you is LOAM. Loam loam loam. It's supposedly a weird and wonderful mix of different size particles in equal amounts, yadda yadda yadda. That doesn't mean much to me. I have hands and eyes, not a microscope.
What is loam?
I had to find out for myself in a very messy process involving a jar, water, and a handful of dirt. Really simple, that's all it is. You mix the dirt with the water in a jar and let it settle. Initially, a small layer of sand formed at the bottom, within seconds. Over the next few minutes, there was another layer, thicker, and dark brown. Over a few days, an even thicker layer, actually comprising of most of the dirt, formed which was brighter brown to orange. There were also some floaty black bits at the top. According to various books this is what is referred to as a "clay soil." It's thick and heavy (oh yes) and does not drain very well (very true) which is terrible for vegetables. Vegetables love well-drained soil which can "breathe." Clay soils are heavy and compact not leaving much room for air. Paradoxically, roots do need to "breathe." I did not know that until recently.
What to do about this nasty clay soil... Lots. The suggestions ranged from peat moss to sand. I added and added the stuff to the soil, along with some compost, and tilled like there was no tomorrow. Eventually I could grab a handful of soil and it no longer stuck together or hardened in clods. It was dark, moist, and crumbled well, and did not form clods. I thought to myself,
"This, is loam!"
After those soil amendments, my tomato plants shot up like rockets and I was getting back twice as many fruits and vegetables as before. If you have clay soil, you'd be amazed at what a cubic yard of sand and peat moss and compost can do!
Last edited: Mon Mar 29, 2010 11:13 pm
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I have clay soil too. I've been adding compost and manure and it helps.
Your plot sounds healthy. +1 for perseveranceÃ‚Â¨.
Sounds like it was a neat experiment too.
Where there any particular websites or books that help you learn what soil type you had? Any that gave good tips on ammending it?
Thanks for the question civicboyfl. I used books from my local library and I can't remember in particular which ones. This was about a year ago. :)