Soil: know the differences

When landscaping, it is important to know the type of soil to use for your needs. This can vary by climate, use, and length of use. Make sure to read through this guide, and determine the type of soil that is ideal for your planting, transplanting, and replanting needs.

Plant health, and by extension, planetary health, literally rests on healthy soils. Why throw out all my effort at the critical stage of providing the foundation for healthy growing?


Functions of Soil

The most immediately apparent function of soil is a medium to support plant life. It provides support both physically and biologically. Physical support is provided by allowing the plant to grow its roots through the soil to hold itself in place. Biological support is provided by its ability to hold nutrients and water that the plant needs. It also supports other types of life as well. Microorganisms and insects live in the soil and they in turn aid plant life by helping to decay organic material and adding structure to the soil. Soil allows the growth of food crops which are consumed by humans and also plants used in the creation of medicines. Microorganisms like fungi and bacteria that live in soil and are used to produce antibiotics. All life on earth is dependant on it either directly and indirectly. This includes the plant life in your garden.


What is Soil Made of?

The four major components of soil are mineral matter, organic matter (humus), water and air. Mineral matter refers to the inorganic elements in the soil e.g. stones, gravel and makes up to 40%-60% of its volume. This part of the soil usually originates from the bedrock that lies beneath the soil. Organic matter (humus) is the decayed remains and waste products of plants and animals and has a great effect on the chemical properties of the soil e.g. availability of nutrients. Almost 40%-60% of a soil’s volume can be space and this is occupied by water and air.

Simple Soil test

If you’re still unsure about the content of your soil, you can separate each ingredient by using this simple method.

  • Put a cup or two of dirt into a jar of water.
  • Shake the water up until the soil is suspended, then let it set until you see it separate into 3 separate layers.

The top layer is clay, the next is silt, and on the bottom is sand. You should be able to judge the presence of each component within your dirt, and act accordingly.

Potting soil

Potting soil is suitable for  repotting plants in pots, trays and tubs. The composition of the potting soil provides a good mixture of water, nutrients and air. This is necessary for a good development of the root system, and an optimal growth of the plants.

Universal potting soils can also contain the necessary nutrients for the first two months of plant growth. There are a few potting soils with 3 months supply of nutrients. To these potting soils fertilizer pellets are added, which slowly break down, providing the 3 month supply.

Manual potting

Apply a layer of potting soil at the bottom of the container, don’t pack it tightly, but rather sprinkle it out of your hand into the container. Put the plant in the pot, tray or tub and fill it to within an inch ofthe rim with potting soil. Press the dirt gently and water it thoroughly, give the plants regular water. Provide the plants after two months with a fresh potting mixturel for new nutrients, or transplant them to the ground if the season is ready.

Tip: Place a layer of hydro granules at the drainage holes of the pot, tray or tub. This allows for better water drainage.

Coconut potting soil

Coconut potting soils hold water and nutrients longer than traditional potting soils. It is a high quality, extra fertilized soil for transplanting and repotting of all plants in pots, trays, tubs or into the ground. The coconut fibers act like a sponge, they have a very high water holding capacity. You therefore have to give less frequent watering. The coconut in addition, provides an open structure, through which roots can grow rapidly, due to having a fibrous structure to cling to.

Tip: the base of coconut fibers need be given less water than normal potting soils. So only water when the soil feels dry to the touch.

Garden turf, often called Peat

Peat is suitable for replanting acid-loving plants in the ground, such as rhododendron, azalea, pieris, skimmia and heather plants. The composition of peat ensures that the soil is acidic, lighter and possesses a higher moisture retention around the plant.

This makes for a good growth and development of the root system, and an optimal growth of acidophilic garden plants. Peat, also referred to by frozen black peat is a natural product from the deepest layers of peat. It is 100% organic.

Replanting with peat instructions

Make a hole that is so large that the roots can spread freely. The hole should be twice as wide as it is deep. Apply a layer of peat into the planting hole. Put the plants in it and then fill it to the brim with peat. Press both mid-point and at the end of filling, the ground lightly.

The first weeks of regular watering after replanting, when using potting soils or peat, you should follow the following tips:

  • Peat– spread 2 inches of peat on top of it, to help retain moisture
  • Potting soils– spread straw around the plant base, then rake it into the dirt
Tip: after planting, build a low ridge of soil around the plant. This ensures that the water can not flow out.
Check out our review of the Top 3 Liquid Lawn Fertilizers if you need more help in growing plants for replanting or transplanting.

Garden soil

Fertilized garden soil is suitable for landfill, leveling and complementary to your current garden soil.

It is also suitable for maintenance and improvement of soil structure; biological life in the soil is stimulated so that the soil is loose and crumbly and therefore easy to process. Furthermore the, formed by the biological life, humus sure the soil is fertile and damp tenacious.

Instructions for using garden soils

Rake good release the existing ground and bring the garden soil over your garden. Mix the existing soil with garden soil by raking light and then spray your garden. When you work a layer of garden soil fertilized by the upper layer in heavy clay soil is to cultivate the land looser and easier.

Tip: Do NOT plant garden plants not fertilized in garden soils, but in a quality potting soils.

What Makes a Soil Healthy?

Healthy soil must be fertile and have a good structure.

For a soil to be fertile it must have nutrients readily available and a pH value at a recommended level for the plants that will reside in it. Nutrients that should be available are the essential nutrients nitrogen (leaf growth), phosphorous (root growth) and potasium (overall health). As well as the essential nutrients there should also be trace elements like calcium and magnesium. The pH level of the soil refers to its acidity or alkalinity and each plant has its own preferred value range. Plants placed into fertile soil will grow up to be very strong and healthy specimens (that is if other conditions like light levels and climate are favorable as well).

The other determiner of a healthy soil is its texture. We learned about different types of soil texture earlier in this article. Soil having a loamy texture is the healthiest and it should be strived for if at all possible. In general a soil that retain nutrients and allow water and air to permeate it will be beneficial for the life of your plants.

How to Create Healthy Soil

No matter what type of soil you have the addition of organic matter will work wonders for its health. Organic matter is plant and animal residues in varying forms of decomposition. It will replenish the nutrients in your soil and improve its texture. You may have heard countless times about adding your leftovers and glass clippings to a compost heap. This is a great idea as your compost is the best form of organic matter. Compost in an advanced stage of decomposition (dark and without smell) is magic for your soil. It encourages microorganism activity causing soil particles to clump together and form aggregates. The aggregates allows for spaces in the soil therefore increasing its drainage. This is especially beneficial for clay soils, which have poor drainage. Other forms of organic matter are animal manure and peat moss.

If your soil is lacking in nutrients and you don’t have access to a compost heap you have a choice of using inorganic or organic fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizers (inorganic salts, manufactured chemically) can be purchased at your local garden and are applied in a dry form that is raked lightly at the base of a plant or in a liquid form. While inorganic fertilizers will work fine they have a number of disadvantages: they release their nutrients too quickly and there is some evidence to show that plants develop a resistance to inorganic fertilizer methods over time, requiring more and more to achieve the same effect. Organic fertilizers are more in tune with nature because they are created from the remains or by-product of an organism. They act slower but they ‘amend’ the soil rather than the quick ‘feeding’ it like inorganic fertilizers.

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