|Garden bed "loam"|
Sunday, May 5, 2019
The optimum soil type for gardening is called "loam". If your soil is not the rich, dark color of loam and not light and fluffy, don't despair as you can create beautiful, black loam in just a couple of years without much effort.
What gives loam its dark color is lots of organic material. In the Midwest and Upper South, we have nice orange clay soil. It is great at holding lots of water when saturated. Some think adding sand is the thing to do to get better drainage in the soil. What you really want to do is to add more organic material. Organic matter helps with drainage and supports lots of microbial life which nourishes plants.
There are options for getting more organic material into your soil. You can add compost, peat, leaves, sawdust, composted manure, or coir to the soil and till it in. Peat is not a renewable resource. Sawdust and leaves require a few months to decompose so are good options in the fall for your spring garden.
For your spring garden, adding compost or composted leaves or manure a couple of weeks before planting works.
I avoid tilling as it destroys the soil structure that takes a year or longer to rebuild. Tilling also creates a hard pan at the depth of the bottom of the tiller tines that makes it hard for drainage and root growth through it. I prefer to add wood mulch as a cover in the garden to create loam. It decomposes and adds organic matter into the soil. Mulch also increase pH and calcium in the soil. In 3 years, you have dark, organic rich soil in the top 6" of the garden bed.
Earthworms love cardboard. They are tireless "tiller" and fertilizers of soil. You can put a layer of cardboard over the garden bed, then cover with mulch. In just a few months, you will have soft, fluffy soil that plants can spread their roots easily and absorbs water well without becoming water logged. For all new beds I put in, I always put down a layer of compost and fertilizer topped with cardboard.
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