Soil and Bed Preparation for Growing Dahlias

Part I

Page 2

Determining the Kind and Condition of Our Soil.

Soil has five main components. 1) inorganic particles of rocks and minerals (sand, clay, and silt), 2) dead and decaying organic matter (humus), 3) water, 4) air, and 5) a community of living creatures, ranging from insects, earthworms, and fungi to microscopic bacteria, protozoa and viruses. The nature of a particular soil is defined by the quality and proportions of these five components.

To begin our investigation into the type of soil we have we ask questions that will help us determine the texture of our soil--how does it feel and look; does it drain well.

A. Does our soil feel harsh and gritty? Do its particles barely hold together? Does water run through it freely? Are its particles quite large, but still granular in size? If so, our soil is predominantly "Sandy".

B. Does our soil feel smooth and floury? Does it pack together somewhat when wet, but crumble to a floury condition when dry? Are its particles smaller than sand? Does water run through it more slowly than through sand? If so, our soil is predominantly "silt".

C. Are the particles in our soil so small that the individual particle can barely be seen if at all? (1,000 times smaller than a grain of sand) Do the particles pack together in sticky clumps when wet? Do the clumps appear as stony clods when dry? Do the particles absorb moisture? Does water stand in puddles, draining extremely slowly? If so, our soil is predominantly "clay".

Soil texture is said to be good when it contains a mixture of sand, silt, and clay in such well-balanced proportions that none predominates. A common name for such soil is "loam". But soil may have good texture and still not be fit for cultivation. Soil "tilth" refers to the soil's fitness for cultivation--the way in which particles of sand, silt, clay, and humus mix together when tilled to provide support, air, water and nutrients to plants.

These three classes of the texture of our soil are sufficient for amateur gardening. For a complete discussion on soil texture types refer to Improving Your Garden Soil Page 19.

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