Complete Guide to Soil
Learn how to heal your soil
Good, quality soil is the foundation of growing anything, whether it is grass, plants, shrubs, trees, or flowers. Understanding the components of quality soil is important to figuring out how to reverse the damage of urbanization, where your soil becomes weak over the years and no longer loaded with the right nutrients for your plants.
Figuring out what makes good soil is an important part of growing strong grass and vibrant flowers. This post will help explain to you how to identify good soil, and the components of it.
Essential Soil Nutrients
Plants need water and sunlight to grow. they get a large part of their nutrients through their roots from the soil. These substances must be dissolved in moisture, therefore, water is so important for plants.
The 17 essential nutrients of soil are:
- carbon C,a nutrient important to overall plant growth;
- hydrogen H,not important for plants, but a sign of good soil;
- oxygen O,plant roots need to draw oxygen from the soil for growth;
- nitrogen N,a major component of chlorophyll, that plants need to convert sunlight;
- phosphorus P,part of the acid structure that regulates photosynthesis;
- potassium K,required for growth and reproduction;
- sulfur S,acts as a soil conditioner and reduces the sodium in the soil;
- calcium Ca,reduces soil salinity and improves water penetration;
- magnesium Mg,another essential building block of chlorophyll;
- iron Fe,part of chlorophyll and is required for some enzyme functions;
- boron B,provides structural integrity to cell walls;
- manganese Mn,plays a key role in photosynthesis in plants;
- copper Cu,important for straw strength, which is the plants ability to stand on it’s own;
- zinc Zn,a key nutrient in growth hormone production;
- molybdenum Mo,a catalyst for enzyme activities in plants;
- nickel Ni, a component of enzymes to keep the plant from turning necrotic;
- chlorine Cl, a micro-nutrient required for plant growth.
Why is calcium so important?
The following properties is why calcium is important for your garden:
- Neutralizes acid.
- Deteriorating growth conditions for moss.
- Brings life to the ground.
- Makes heavy clay looser.
- Lime is plant food.
- Makes other nutrients from the soil available to plants.
- Reduces pests.
- Promotes fruiting and ripening of fruits.
Humus an important component of soil
Humus is a rich, mixture within soil. Many people think it is a layer of soil, or a type of soil, but it isn’t any of that. Humus is the carbon rich remains, after the organic components within soil break down. It is an essential component with quality soil, as it helps retain water within the soil, essentially 90% of it’s weight in water.
Humus is negatively charged, so it helps gather and retain the nutrients plants need for proper growth and enzyme production, sort of like a sponge. As plant roots come in contact with the humus sponge, it is able to extract the nutrients. This process is a bit more complicated, but it is best to think of humus as a slow release fertilizer, except without any chemicals.
Besides the nutrient sponge properties of humus, it also causes aggregation of the soil, which allows the soil to be less clumpy, and completely improves the soil structure. Humus rich soil allows the plant roots to freely move within the soil, and gives them easy access to water, nutrients, and oxygen.
To learn more about different types of soil, check out this post
Understanding Soil Structure
A good soil structure is crumbly with many passages and cavities, so that the plant roots can freely move within them and reach all the needed nutrients.
Factors that can deteriorate or destroy soil structure include, for example:
- Removal of vegetation
- Excessive moving and handling of soil
- Excessive sodium
The acidity of soil
Soil acidity (and acidity of anything else, for that matter) is measured on a scale of 1 to 14. Everything below 7 is considered to be acidic. Everything above is considered to be alkaline. Most garden plants thrive at a pH between 6 and 7.5.
Is your soil less acidic? It is richer in calcium. Give it an acidic soil lime fertilizer, especially clay soil it is needed. Lets examine your ground and take action if necessary.
Perform a soil analysis every few years. Compose the soil sample by collecting some soil at different places in your garden. Use a self-test or have a sample tested every few years after fertilizing early in the year.
To learn more about conducting a soil analysis, check out this post.