Soil is the most important element in your garden, it is the plants source of moisture and nutrients and could be considered their immune system and can determine how a plant will grow.
Do you have ideal soil? Most people don't, the ideal soil is rare. The most important task a gardener can learn about is their garden's soil. What kind do you have? What the pH is? Does is drain well? What if you have rocky terrain? Is your soil fertile or not?
These tips can help give solutions to these questions. During your lifetime you can come in contain with all types so let's learn how to get some information to help your gardening be more successful for years to come.
The different types of soil problems are:
- Acid soil
- Alkaline soil
- Compacted soil
- Clay soil
- Sandy soil
- Poorly drained soil
- Boggy soil
- Low-fertility soil
- High soluble salt content in soil
This means that the soil's pH is acidity or alkalinity which affects everything about your soil. Neutral soil normally has a pH of 7, but for most plants the ideal pH is 6.5 and 6.8, so slightly acid. When your pH gets below 6 that's when the problem happen and when the pH is 5.5 or below that is a severe soil problem.
When you have acid soil it interferes with the nutrient's absorption by the plants because they make some of the trace elements excessively available. Falling into this Category is Manganese, boron and aluminum. In high concentrations some aluminum compounds are toxic to plants, and plants often can take manganese and born in preference to some of the other nutrients needed. Soil microorganisms can also be adversely affected. Without the high populations of diverse organisms, organic matter can't be changed into the forms that plants need and this affects the soils capacity to hold both air and water. So both air and water will diminish in your plants.
For these reasons, pH problems need to be corrected before they become severe.
Highly alkaline soils mostly frequent in dry areas. If you are gardening is spots where large concentrations of fertilizers were used the solid could be both alkaline and saline or salty. So guess what now there is two problems to solve.
Most of the problems associated with alkaline soils are similar to high acid soils. Plants aren't able to get the nutrients required to grow well and stay healthy, but the elements are different. Alkaline conditions prevent plants from acquiring adequate levels of phosphorus and most of the trace elements. Sodium and Selenium both can be excessive and can kill plants at high levels.
Microorganisms require slightly acid soils, so decomposition and nutrient cycling processes are disrupted in your plants. So this is worth the effort to correct in your soil.
Compacted soils cause many different problems for your plants. Lack of air space around the roots means that your plants are lacking oxygen, so without microorganisms and oxygen your plants roots will suffer.
With compacted soils nutrient deficiencies are common and the organic matter doesn't break down properly and only a few species of plants will grow. Also less severe or obvious compaction can also affect your plant growth.
In soils that have a fairly loose top layer but the hardpan is compacted between 6" to 8" (15 to 20 cm) below the surface, plants roots will grow horizontally because they can't penetrate the hardpan layer. This will allow the plants to suffer drought and/or deficiencies as the horizontal layer becomes congested with roots from many different plants. Lack of support is the other problem, since the roots are growing near the top of the soil a strong wind could cause them to be torn from the soil or just blow over. But with high soil nutrition and adequate moisture levels, the plants can continue to grow in fashion all season.
Clay particles are tiny and flat and if the soil lacks organic matter the particles are likely to pile up against each other trapping water and leaving no space for air causing compacted, wet soil.
If you are digging in the garden when the soil is wet it forms clods, when the soils dries these clods are almost impossible to break apart. Guess what, if you can't break them your plants have the same problem. The surface of clay soil also crack when it dries and because clay tends to shed water it is hard to rehydrate.
The advantage of clay soil that is holds its nutrients well, by modifying the solid your plants will grow well in it.
What makes sandy soils difficult to work with is that they don’t hold water or the nutrients. Organic matter added breaks down right away, and the nutrients in the soil drain off because of the little amount of humus in the soil to hold them in place.
Sandy soils get quite hot under the sun but will cool off at night because they don’t hold moisture but don’t cushions the temperatures. The root system of the plants are more exposed to extremes then with clay soils but clay soils are more difficult to handle then sandy soils. By adding lots of compost and keeping the soil mulched throughout the year, you can increase the water and nutrient holding capacity. Sandy soil’s warm up and dry quickly in the spring, the don’t form clods when working while wet, they drain quickly and its it’s easy to change the pH.
Poorly Drained Soil
Poorly Drained Soils have the same problems that clay soils do, the soils stays too wet to work with in the early spring and you can compact the soil just by walking on it. Poorly drained soils can happen on sandy soil as well as clay.
The soils hardpan can lead to poor drainage whether it is naturally occurring or caused by poor tillage techniques. The water filters down through the top layers of the soil but will stop when it gets to the hardpan because it can’t go anywhere else and it collects and then wicks upward.
Other causes of poor drainage are high water tables or rock ledges under the soil and poor grading. There is basically you can do about high water table or a rock ledge but you modify the grading on the land.
Depending on your climate, bogs are the perfect environment for water-loving snakes, turtles and other small creatures like salamanders, it is ideal for some of the loveliest plants grown. Boggy areas can be as different as meadows where some are in the shade and some in the sun. Some form at the headwaters of a creek there some runoff from a river or lake. Water is usually shallow and somewhat stagnant and are covered with sphagnum moss and have high acid.
Boggs do have its advantages but not with vegetables gardens, orchards, strawberries or any traditional gardens. Most of these require well drained soil as a cultural requirement. If you try to plant any of these they will get sick and die.
Low-fertility soil can be transformed into an adequate soil but it takes scant consolation during the years to accomplish this. Without good fertility, plants don’t grow well. They are small and show deficiency symptoms like yellowing leaves (nitrogen deficiency) or purple leaves (low phosphorus levels. These deficiencies are vulnerable to pests and diseases. Many pest species will prey on the weak plants first and some diseases will attack because the plant is stressed because it is either to old or lacks the adequate nutrition.
Diagnosing a fertility problem can be difficult and this is true of gardens that slowly decline. You will notice that the plants are less vigorous and that the incidence of pests and diseases are rising instead of falling. Each symptom is a warning sign that your soil maybe losing fertility.
High Soluble salt content Soil
Alkaline soil in dry areas will often build up high levels of soluble salt. Saline soils are with a pH level below 8.5 and the salts contain calcium and magnesium, while others are sodic (pH is above 8.5) and the major salt is sodium. Which ever type you have is a serious problem, your plants won’t grow well in these soils because they can’t get enough water, even though the soil is moist enough. The salts hold the water so that the roots can get it.
Soluble salt problems are in areas of low rainfall as a consequence of excessive surface evaporation from the soil. If the rainfall was heavier the nutrient salts would wash away into the lower levels of the soil rather than remaining on or close to the surface. In ocean areas the salt spray may also contribute to the problem. The most effective long-term way to deal with excessive salt areas are to improve drainage and increase organic matter content of the soil.