The Dirt… on Dirt

Pretty much everyone in my neck of the woods became warriors this past weekend. The proof is in the sun-burned faces and foreheads that walked into work this morning! Yes, our first weekend of warm, sunny weather was here, and that meant everyone was ready to dig in to some much-needed yard work!

I myself couldn’t wait to get out there and dig into the earth…well, what I had envisioned as earth, at least — wonderful, nutrient rich soil just waiting for me to sow and plant in it. Instead, I got a rough, dried, break apart and roll out of your hands soil that was begging for water. No matter, I did a little weeding, planted a few cosmos seeds and turned up as much of the “soil” as I could. And, I gave some much-needed water to everything!

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With this whole dried out dirt situation, it got me thinking — What is dirt? How many types are out there? What kind of dirt do YOU have in your neighborhood (that doesn’t have anything to do with your neighbor…)

What is SOIL?

  • Soil is a mixture of minerals, decomposed plants, and rocks. It encompasses everything from Mulch to Chalk. Depending on where in the world you live, you will most likely have soil that has more of one mineral(s) than another. You might get lucky and get the perfect ratio of all the above, which is called Loam. Loam is the ideal growing medium for all plants. Gardeners work really hard to get their soil to loamy proportions. Playing with the pH of your soil helps achieve this.
    • Clay– is made up of the smallest particles found in the earth. This makes it the heaviest and most dense of all soil. The best way to work with this type of soil is knowing when is the best time to do so. The best time to plant in clay soil is when the soil is dry. Its way too hard to work with when it is wet. (Remember grade school?)
    • Silt — has a chalky feel, but is definitely easier to work with than clay. Because silt has mineral particles that are so fine, you can compact it easy and it holds water in. It’s a good mix between sand and clay. The downside is that because it holds water so well, it could hurt your plants by not getting enough air to the roots to dry them enough to grow.
    • Sand — sand is made up of large mineral and rock particles. While it’s not the most desirable soil to plant in, all is not lost if this is the type of soil in your neighborhood. Cactus and other plants that survive drought-like conditions thrive in sand. You can add mulch to your soil if its sandy to keep moisture in, since sand does not hold water well.

Every type of soil I have described above can be enhanced to be the ideal growing medium by adding compost or mulch to help with the growth of your plants. The first step to success in gardening is finding out what type of soil you have around your house. After that, you do what you have to do get the best “dirt” in your neighborhood! You know what I mean…

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