Living Soil- Know Your Soil Type

Meena Murugappan
July 20, 2021

Many of us dream to have a small patch of Earth to grow our everyday herbs and vegetables. Who can resist the joy in picking fresh herbs or a ripe tomato and toss them into the dish? There are many things to consider before starting your kitchen garden, be it in your backyard or balcony. This 3-part article series talks about the most important aspect of gardening: How to prepare the soil for planting.  

Healthy soil is fundamental for healthy plants and robust produce/crops. Healthy soil includes soil particles, organic matter, and good mix of air & water. Soil should also have a proper density of particles to ensure air space and become an encouraging habitat for microbes & worms. Adequate water holding capacity and proper drainage is another key element in soil structure. This balanced soil allows the plant to root strongly as well as absorb the nutrients required to grow well.  

Natural soil is rich in humus (combination of plant and animal waste decomposition). This type of soil holds moisture but drains well. It is alive with living organisms — from earthworms to fungi and bacteria — that assist in keeping up the quality and texture of the soil.  
Part 1 of this article series will help to know how to identify your soil.

Part 2 will help you determine soil health.

Part 3 will help you maintain soil health through your planning cycles.  

Step 1: Know your Soil Type.  

Types of Soil

There are several types of soil in which different vegetables thrive. So, it is important that the right soil is selected for various crops. For most vegetable plants, a rich sandy loam (which is a mix of sand, silt, and clay) is a good option.  

Settle Test

This is an easy way to identify the type of soil in your backyard or plating pots. All you have to do is add a fistful of soil in a glass container and leave it to settle for 12 hours. Loose soil (such as sandy ones) will leave the water clear with most solid particles settled at the bottom. Dense soil (such as clay or silt) will leave a muddy water with a layer of settled particles at the bottom. Soil with lots of peat (soil formed with large amounts of decomposed plant material) will leave water lightly clouded, and several layers of peat on the surface. Loamy soil leaves the water quite clear with several layers of particles at the bottom.  

Talk to your neighborhood farmer or nursery and add the required amount of soil aggregate of the right type to convert your soil into sandy, loamy soil - ready for vegetables and flowering plants.  

We are happy that you are on your way to becoming an urban farmer or kitchen gardener. Click here to get to Part 2 of this article series, where we will look at Soil Health in more detail.  

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