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Successful gardens start with testing garden soil to learn which nutrients and minerals you may be lacking in before planting
In the excitement of starting a new garden, it’s easy to get caught up in seed catalogs and grand gardening dreams – but for any garden to succeed, you must first do two things: Determine what type of soil you have, then test it. That is the chief key to having a so-called green thumb.
This said, there’s no need to be testing garden soil every year. Most extension offices recommend testing every five years or so unless you notice growth problems in your plants. The best time of year to test soil is in the fall, but it’s acceptable to test in the winter (as long as your soil isn’t frozen) or even in early spring. However, it takes time for soil amendments to do their work; the sooner you test, the sooner the amendments can do their thing and the sooner you can have a thriving garden.
Testing Garden Soil for Soil Type
Clay soil is made of tiny, densely packed particles. Clay is less than ideal for gardening because water won’t drain well from it (which can lead to plant rot) and may also take too long to reach plant roots (making them die of thirst). In addition, clay can prevent plants from spreading their roots – and plants without strong root systems are plagued by ill-health.
Sandy soil has – you guessed it – lots of sand in it. This can be beneficial, except that pure sand has no nutrients to feed plants and, since water drains away quite quickly in sandy soil, plants may not get enough to drink, either. On the other hand, some sand in the soil helps keep plants from getting soggy and rotting.
Loamy soil is a mixture of silt (which is particles that are between the size of sand and clay), sand, and clay. It’s ideal for gardening; it retains the right amount of moisture and nutrients for plants.
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