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January 2018
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Episode 150 Soil Basics

Did several shows on soil before but I consider those medium level shows.  I talked about a lot of science and stuff that was interesting (to me at least) but maybe not as actionable as I liked.

Knowing your soil

Topsoil and subsoil.

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Topsoil is the layer where most things grow.  This is the layer that provides the most nutrients, water and growth opportunity.

Subsoil is the rocky substrate that topsoil sits on.  Holds seeped nutrients but is generally less fertile than topsoil.

Soil Types

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Three main types:  Clay, sand and silt.  Particle wise clay is very small.  Sand is very large.  Silt is in between. 

 Clay holds water really well.  Sand does not.  Silt is in between. 

Clay is more acid than the other types.  Acid soils taste sour.  Alkaline soils taste sweet.  Alkalinity is almost always worse than acidity (within reason).  Most plants like some acid.  If the plant has fruit with acidity, where is it going to get the acid?

Identify your soil characteristics

Dig in different places. Soil is not the same even 100 feet apart. 

Use the jar test.  OM then Clay on top then silt then sand. 

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Look for indicator plants.

Fixing and Maintaining your soil.

See the benefit in your soil.  Don’t fall for the grass is greener syndrome.  People with sand want clay and people with clay want sand.  Everyone wants loam but no one wants to work for it. 

I’m of the opinion that roots should always be in the soil and mulch should always be on top.  The roots keep the soil from moving downward and the mulch keeps it from moving upward.  When you plant something and its cycle completes don’t pull it up by the roots.  Chop it and leave it unless there’s a reason not to.

Legumes are some of the most beneficial things that can be planted.  Again, chop and drop, don’t pull up by the roots.

Rotate crops.  Every crop takes something different.  If you keep taking the same thing you will deplete it. 

Encourage fungi.  When they aren’t there introduce them.  When they are there don’t freak out.  Forest soil is a good thing to add. 

Worms are so important.  Earthworms and redworms.  Do things to draw them in.  Mulch helps.  Sheet mulching is good.  They need stuff to eat though. 

I am also of the opinion that without a companion animal to help your garden you are going to make your life more difficult. 

Know each plant and what it needs.  Make the best use of your space in the garden by planting things the appropriate way. 

Don’t use pesticides or herbicides or fertilizers.  I know that should be pretty basic by now with my show but really everything that’s good in the soil.  Even too much organic fertilizer can be a bad thing.  If you do the things to maintain the soil that I suggest you won’t even need to bother with these things.  Your plants will grow faster than everything else.  They will resist predation and they will grow without additional nutrients. 

 Add compost but don’t till it in.  Never break the soil unless you are planting root crops.  Even then, only break it as much as you need to.