Soil

Soil is of three main types and all shades of gray and brown in between. Soil is the product of millions of years of geology.

Clay soil, also known as "heavy soil" or "adobe" in North America, is common in coastal areas and is very widespread inland. It is difficult to work with.

Clay soils hold water well and provide slow, even drainage. Clay soils are slow to warm in the spring, but hold warmth well into autumn when sunlight is fading. The density of clay does not allow for proper air circulation, and root growth is inhibited. For more information on clay soil, see Chapter Ten, "Soil."

Prepare clay soil at least a month before planting, adding lots of compost and manure. Clay soils can hold water too well, which can smother roots. Adding organic matter will "lighten" the heavy soil, thus creating air pockets, improving drainage, and promoting root growth.

The month delay gives the manure a chance to "coo!" so it won't burn the plants.

Use low sodium manure that contains few salts. Cows are given sodium nitrate to make them gain weight, but that same salt in their manure can lock up nutrients available to the plants, stunting their growth.

Do not be fooled by anyone who suggests adding sand to break up clay soil. Sand and clay create cement; add straw to make bricks!

One gardener had a backhoe operator excavate a pit 10 feet square by 2 feet (3 m x 60 cm) deep, built a 2-foot (60 cm) retaining wall around it, then filled it in with 400 cubic yards of river loam, This expensive, laborious soil transformation paid off in one outstanding crop after another over the years.

A long-term option is to annually till in compost, manure, and other organic amendments.

Raised beds (covered below) are an excellent option for clay soil. Till the clay when it is damp and workable, and add manure/compost in heaps; plant directly in the mounds.

Pile subsoil in a ring around the plant, making a bowl to catch rain water.

Sandy soil is found near large bodies of water, in deserts, and in many inland areas. It is comprised of small, medium, and large particles and is easy to till even when wet. Plants can achieve excellent root penetration. Sandy soil feels and looks gritty.

Once you have amended soil so it holds plenty of water and nutrients hut still drains well, you can take it easy.

Sand is easy to work and warms quickly in the spring, but it does not hold fertilizer well, especially when over-watered-the nutrients wash out. Compost helps bind the large particles providing food and air circulation, but in hot climates the organic matter decomposes rapidly and is soon consumed by bacteria and other soil organisms.

For best results keep sandy soil cool, retain moisture with mulch, and cultivate often, adding additional compost. Winter season cover crops will hold moisture and prevent runoff while retaining life in the soil.

Loam soil has all the advantages of clay and sand; it holds moisture and water like clay but is quick to warm and has good drainage and a work-friendly structure like sand. It is the perfect growing medium.

Most soils are a combination of sand and clay. Silty loam falls in between and feels almost greasy when rubbed in your hand, though it is less slippery than clay. The ultimate soil for growing plants is loam found in ancient river bottoms and lake beds where sedimentary soil builds up. It is dark, fertile, and crumbly in the hand.

Forest soils vary greatly in pH and fertility. The needles and deadfall from the trees usually make the soil acidic.

Most of the forests remaining in North America and Europe are on hillsides. Flat land is used for farming, recreation, and urban sprawl.

Long-needle pines grow in poor soils such as those found in mountainous and tropical regions. They have deep roots to look for all the elements in the soil. When a layer of humus evolves, short-needle conifers dominate. The roots on these trees spread out on the surface to search for nourishment and bury roots to anchor it in place.

Once you have amended soil so it holds plenty of water and nutrients hut still drains well, you can take it easy.

Jungles are usually low-growing, hot, moist, and dense. The soil is shallow and alive. The hot weather makes all foliage that falls to the ground decompose quickly. Often nutrients are available to plants, but the soil does not have a chance to build density, Layers of tropical soils can be very thin. However, through much of Mexico and Central America volcanic eruptions brought much rock and minerals to the surface. Mountain valleys and lowlands are full of alluvial plains that are packed with nutrient-rich soil.

Grasslands often have wonderful soil that recycles nutrients. Sunshine is likely to be good, but detection could be a problem in wide-open spaces. Plant in areas that are protected from wind and curious eyes.

Mountain soils are often very rich in minerals but lack humus. Alpine valleys hold the best alluvial-plain soil that is the product of volcanic rock erosion, Hillsides are generally less fertile, and soil must be amended to grow a good crop.

Bog soils are moist and spongy. Bogs are filled with vegetation and often have very rich soil. They present a perfect place to grow individual plants. Cut a square yard (90 cm-1) of moist sod from the ground, turn it over, and plant. Marsh ground supplies sufficient water on its own. Add a bit of time-release fertilizer during

Lime application differs based on soil type. Some guidelines are:

35 pounds/300 square yards (16 kg/251 nV) very sandy soil

50 pounds/300 square yards (23 kg/251 m?) sandy soil

70 pounds 300 square yards (32 kg/25) m*) loam 80 pounds/ 300 square yards (36 kg/251 mJ)

heavy clay soil

*1 cubic yard = 27 cubic feet (1 m* = 106 cm1) (1 cubic yard = 105 cm1)

* rule of thumb; add 1-2 pounds (0.5-0.9 kg) of dolomite lime to each cubic foot (0.03 cm *) of soil

Raising alkaline levels is somewhat easier than raising the acid level. If your soil is too alkaline, 1.2 oz (34 gm) of finely ground rock sulfur per square yard (90 cm-1) of sandy soil will reduce soil pH by one point. Other types of soil will need 3.6 oz (100 gm) per square yard (90 cm'). Well-decomposed sawdust, composted leaves, and peat moss also help to acidify soil and lower pH.

Hardpan

Hardpan is a condition whereby a layer of soil beneath the soil surface is hard and impermeable to both water and roots. Caliche is a hard-pan common in the southwest USA. It consists of a layer of calcium carbonate (lime) located below the topsoil. Tfie texture of caliche varies from granular to solid cement-like rock and can be from a few inches to many feet thick.

To plant in any hardpan area, you must bore through it to provide drainage. An auger will work to bore a hole, but a pick and shovel are practical, too. All other planting techniques remain the same. Discard the hardpan bored out of the hole and replace with compost or high-quality garden soil.

Turn over the top layer of grass to prepare moist soiJs for planting.

transplanting and another handful of "flowering" formula during a check-up in early August,

Most often, it is easiest to change or amend native soil that will produce scrawny plants. You can grow in containers so you can control all factors, but just remember, containers require more maintenance. See "Terrace Growing" for more information.

Amendments improve soil, root penetration, soil water retention, etc. See Chapter Ten, "Soil," for a complete discussion of amendments.

Maintain a compost pile. See "Compost" in Chapter Ten for more information.

Worms work wonders with soil. Grow your own crop of worms in a worm bin. Worms grow and reproduce in layers of food scraps, soil, and manure. They produce worm castings, an excellent fertilizer/amendment or compost tea ingredient. For more information about worms, check out the classic book, Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up & Maintain a Worm Composting System, by Mary Appelhof, Flower Press.

Soil and water pH levels are exceptionally important. Cannabis does best with a soil pH of about 6.5. Soil pH is easy to change. See Chapter Ten for a complete discussion of pH.

Lime amendments will raise pH and lower acidity, but too much lime can burn roots and make nutrients unavailable. If you need more than one full point of pH adjustment, check with local farmers, nurseries, or agricultural agencies for recommendations on lime application.

Prepare Soil

Help reduce the stress by growing seedlings in tail containers (three-inch square by six-inch tall) (8 cm' x 15 cm) which will produce a strong root system and a plant that has a better chance ol surviving in tough conditions. Adding water-absorbing polymers in the plant mix is an excellent defense against desiccation, too. The crystals expand up to 15 times when watered, making moisture available to the roots for longer periods of time. Slow-release crystals will allow an extended period between watering. This is very helpful if your patch is in a remote location that you cannot visit often.

Mountain areas can have poor soil and will need to be improved before planting for best results. Dig holes at least 18 inches (46 cm) wide by 18 inches (46 cm) deep for each plant. Place a handful of blood meal (see warnings in Chapter Eleven) on the bottom and three to four inches (8-10 cm) of soil on top of it before transplanting the cuttings or seedlings, then water heavily A little effort preparing the planting holes will result in healthier plants and a heavier harvest.

On an incline, planting holes must be terraced into the hillside and be large enough to catch runoff water. Dig extra gullies to channel runoff to growing plants, and make a "dish" around the plants to hold water.

Plants remain smaller in rocky terrain but often go unseen because they are grown where no one expects to see them.

Clay forms an excellent underground planting container, After a good rain, dig large planting holes. Fill holes with lots of good dirt and compost. Backfill in layers; for example, fill a three-foot (90 cm) deep hole with an eight-inch (20 cm) layer of steamed bone-meal (see warnings in Chapter Eleven) and soil. The balance is made up of a thin layer of topsoil mixed with a rich compost-manure-straw mixture, rock phosphate, and seaweed meal. Mound compost and soil about a foot above ground level. It will settle during growing season. See "Organic Fertilizers" in Chapter Eleven for more information.

Porous Soil

Cut through hardpan so water can drain.

Porous Soil

Cut through hardpan so water can drain.

Digging hole and planting

Prepare to plant by digging a big hole and placing boards at the bottom to stop downward water flow. Add compost, peat moss, coco peat, good soil, organic nutrients, polymers, and dolomite lime-all will help soil hold water-then top with a concave bowl of soil that will catch rain and irrigation water.

Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables but didn't know what to do? Here are the best tips on how to become a true and envied organic gardner.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment