53January 3, 2019

Happy New Year to all of my readers!

Last week, I began telling you about the importance of soil as a part of having a successful garden or lawn in your yard. Hopefully, you now understand that having a sufficient depth of a good quality soil will allow you to grow plants successfully.

If you are not sure of the type or amount of good soil that you have in your yard, you need to dig a hole to find out. Grab a shovel with a six inch rounded blade and take it out to your yard. If you are having trouble growing grass, take the shovel and push it into the ground all the way to the top of the blade. Pull the blade out and then push it back into the ground next to the previous area. Eventually you will complete a circular shape in the soil. Once this is done, you need to pop that “circle” out of the soil.

Once you have that “plug” of soil out of the ground, you need to look at it to see what you have for soil. You may find that you have a few inches of loam followed by several inches of sand or gravel. You may even discover some clay soil. Once you know what the soil is like in the lawn, you will know how you can fix the soil.

I have used the terms loam, sand, clay and gravel in the previous paragraph. Maybe you know what those terms mean but if you don’t, let me explain it them to you.

A loam type of soil consists of a mixture of components. Let’s say that you are going to buy a truckload of loam. So often, people will think that if the soil is dark in color it must be a good loam. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. A dark colored soil could have a lot of clay in the loam. It could also have a lot of sand in the soil. The best way to know if you have found a good quality loam is to feel the soil. You want to pick up some of the soil and squeeze it in your hand. Once you have squeezed the soil, open your hand and take a finger and press on the soil. The soil should easily crumble if it is a good loam.

Next you want to take some of the loam and run your thumb through the soil that is on your other finger. If the soil feels scratchy, there is a lot of sand in the soil. If the soil feels slippery or if it forms small ribbons of soil, there is a lot of clay in the soil. What you are looking for is a bit of sand in the soil and a minimal amount of clay.

You are looking for a lot of organic matter in the soil. The organic matter, usually thought of as compost, is the part of the soil that easily crumbles after you have compressed the soil in your hand. You can use this test on the soil in your yard to help you to understand the type of loam you have in your yard.

Having a sandy loam isn’t necessarily bad. As I said, sandy soil feels scratchy. The particles of sand allow water to drain away due to the coarse nature of sand. Some plants prefer a sandy loam because the plants need good drainage. If the plants need good drainage, then a sandy type of loam may be OK for some of your plants – but not necessarily for a good lawn.

If the loam you are buying, or if you are checking your existing loam and that loam forms ribbons in your testing, then there is a lot of clay in the soil. Clay tends to pack down over time, making it hard for your plants to push their roots through the soil. A soil high in clay content can also prevent any necessary drainage during periods of excessive soil moisture i.e., a rainy spring.

Now you should have a good working knowledge of what makes a good loam for your lawn or garden. You can then look at that plug of soil you dug up and with a critical eye knowing what you need to do to make that soil a better soil.

More on this next week.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you next week.

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