Updated: Apr 10, 2019
Spring is finally here! It's time to get out in the sun and enjoy that garden!
Soil is much more than simply the dirt in and around your yard. All soils are made up of minerals, organic matter, air and water that work together to provide the ideal conditions for plant roots to provide fuel for the plant to grow.
The mineral component of soil is basically a mixture of sand, silt and clay, with the ideal ratio being 40/40/20; 40% sand, 40% silt and 20% clay. Anything different and you may run into some problems. Too much sand means the soil can’t hold water, or too much clay and the soil will be unworkable and retain too much water. When this ratio is out of balance, amending the soil with organic compost will improve drainage. Determining the kind of soil you have is easy; simply begin with a soil test. You can pick up soil testing kits from most Home and Garden Centers. Then make selections for your soil based on the results.
Tip: A word about soil acidity and alkalinity: When gardeners mention pH, they’re really talking about nutrient availability in the soil. On the pH scale, 7 is neutral, and anything below is acidic. Above 7 is alkaline. Most plants will thrive in a pH range from 6.0 to 7.5, and that happens to be the pH of most commercial garden soils.
Of course, there are exceptions, like acid-loving blueberry bushes that prefer a pH around 5.5. Acidic soil can be amended with lime to make it more neutral or alkaline, while garden sulfur is added to alkaline soils to decrease the pH. *Compost is neutral and will not affect the acidity of soil when added.
In addition to structure and minerals, the soil texture is also important to a healthy garden. The ideal loamy, friable soil holds together when you squeeze a handful. A sandy soil will fail to hold its shape when squeezed, and slightly damp clay soil clumps when squeezed. To achieve soil that is quick-draining but retentive, amend the soil with organic matter like compost and peat moss.