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What is Soil?

How Important is Soil to Organic Vegetable Gardening?
How Can We Get the Most Out of Different Types of Soil?

What is soil? Do different types of soil have an effect on organic vegetable gardening? Use soil testing kits (or a soil pH tester) to check your garden soil.

To grow good organic produce, you need to understand, what is soil?; and its importance to organic vegetable gardening. Soil, that incredible medium in which our food is grown, is made up of three basic elements - water 25%, air 25% and solids 50%.

The solids are made up of organic (living and/or once living, now decaying) and inorganic (non-living such as rock and minerals) matter.

It is the amount and variety of organic matter in the soil that determines how strong and fertile it is. A soil rich in diverse forms of organic matter is a healthy soil.

Using a good compost as fertilizer, or as organic soil, is what provides soil with additional nutrients.

Organic Vegetable Gardening Needs Organic Soil

Healthy soil is the foundation for your organic vegetable garden. Such soil will contain life forms such as bacteria, fungi, moulds, worms, insects, plants and more. This rich variety, or biodiversity, is what will ensure your plants receive an abundance of nutrients in the correct balance. In other words, your crops will thrive.

Nutrients and organic matter are mutually perpetuating. Three of the most important nutrients - Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) - are, in part, produced by certain organisms in and on the soil, and in turn provide those organisms with the nutrition they need.

It is necessary, therefore, to make sure that your soil is rich in organic matter. This you will do by using natural fertilizers. Before we look at soil fertilizer though you will help your chances of achieving a healthy crop by identifying your soil type and using a soil pH tester to test your soil pH (soil testing kits are available online or at garden centers).

What is Soil? Different Types of Soil:

what is soil

There are many types of soil (there are said to be over 50,000 in the US, although considerably less than that in the UK), ranging from sandy, through silty to chalky. The term 'soil type' refers to the mix of materials that is in the soil composition.

It is easy to identify your soil type or composition and it is worth doing so. The more you know about your soil, the more you will bond with it. The better the relationship, the more success you will achieve in your gardening.

Soil is made up of particles. In order to see which particles make up your soil perform the following test.

  • Take a handful of soil and put it in a glass container, such as a jar, to halfway
  • Add water to the three quarters mark
  • Close the lid and shake the container for a couple of minutes
  • Leave the container in a fairly dark place (to stop organic matter from turning the glass green) for a day
  • Now check it. Gravity will have pulled the heaviest particles to the bottom of the container and the lightest will be at the top. In between will be layers of the other particles and materials that make up your soil, their position being dependent on weight
  • You can now measure the levels (in approximate percentages perhaps?) of each type of matter making up your soil. Sand particles being the heaviest will always be at the bottom of your jar. Chalk and limestone particles and some organic materials will be at the top.

This test, together with the use of soil testing kits (also known as soil pH tester) for the soil pH level, will give you an idea of how you can best manage your soil, as different soil types have different requirements and produce in different ways.

Understanding What is Soil? and Different Types of Soil will help you build a better organic garden.

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