The Secrets in the Soil

Dirt is the stuff you wash off your clothes. Soil is the living layer of minerals, organic matter, air, and microorganisms that makes up the root zone of your yard. Surprisingly, about 50 percent of a healthy topsoil is air; most of the other half is made of minerals, with only about 5 percent organic matter, such as decaying leaves, roots, and other former and current plant parts.

Microorganisms also are an immensely important element of living soil. The billions of beneficial bacteria, fungi, insects, and other critters that live in just a handful of soil are responsible for the health of both the soil and the plants. Protecting and nurturing these microorganisms turns out to be one of the most essential tasks of sustainable landscaping. Nothing is better than vital, living soil to make plants grow well.

Soils are divided into three main categories:

  • Clay soil: Clay soils, which gardeners usually detest, are composed of very fine particles. They're often sticky and difficult to work with, and they retain water for long periods of time. These soils tend to be fertile, but sometimes they can have trouble releasing nutrients to the plants. Clay soil isn't the end of the world, but it requires special consideration.
  • Sandy soil: Sandy soils are made up of relatively large particles, and they have trouble holding water and nutrients. As with clay soils, if you have sandy soils, it's best to pick plants that are adapted to them rather than committing yourself to a lifetime of constant watering and fertilization.
  • Loam soil: Loam soils are just right. They're a mixture of clay, sand, and organic matter, among other things. If your soil is loamy, you're a very lucky gardener because you get the best of both worlds — good drainage and water holding capacity, decent fertility, and no particular problems. You can plant almost anything you want.

w To determine your soil texture, moisten a small handful of soil (not too wet, y^JL please) and make a wiener-shaped gob. Close your hand around it, and ir^ll squeeze it out between your thumb and index finger. Pay attention to the feel of it, and to how long a ribbon you can get to extend into the air before it breaks off. Then use the following descriptions to determine what type of soil you have:

  • Clay: Eeew! This type of soil is all sticky and slippery and gooey! It makes a piece in the air at least 1 to 2 inches long.
  • Clay loam: This soil is kind of sticky, but the air piece will be an inch or so long.
  • Sandy loam: The sand makes this soil feel somewhat gritty; the clay and silt make it feel a little gooey. It hangs together but won't form a ribbon in the air like the clay soils.
  • Sandy: This type of soil is loose and gritty; not at all sticky. It would never form a ribbon. Instead, it just falls apart.

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Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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