Vegetable Gardens & Organic MatterWritten by David Selman, Tracker-Outdoors.com
Organic matter improves soil as a growing medium for plants. It helps release nitrogen, minerals, and other nutrients for plant use when it decays. A mulch of partially rotted straw, compost, or undecomposed crop residue on soil helps keep soil surface from crusting, retards water loss from soil, and keeps weeds from growing.Practically any plant material can be composted for use in garden. Leaves, old sod, lawn clippings, straw, and plant refuse from garden or kitchen can be used. Often, leaves can be obtained from neighbors who do not use them or from street sweepings.
The purpose of composting plant refuse or debris is to decay it so that it can be easily worked into soil and will not be unsightly when used in garden. Composting material should be kept moist and supplied with commercial fertilizer, particularly nitrogen, to make it decay faster and more thoroughly.
The usual practice in building a compost pile is to accumulate organic material in some out-of-the-way place in garden. It can be built on open ground or in a bin made of cinder blocks, rough boards, or wire fence. The sides of bin should not be airtight or watertight. A convenient time to make a compost pile is in fall when leaves are plentiful.
In building compost pile, spread out a layer of plant refuse about 6 inches deep and add one-half pound or one cupful of 10-10-10, 10-20-10, or 10-6-4 fertilizer to each 10 square feet of surface. Then add 1 inch of soil and enough water to moisten but not soak it. This process is repeated until pile is 4 to 5 feet high. Make top of pile concave to catch rainwater.
Garden Soil Preparation Written by David Selman, Tracker-Outdoors.com
Different types of plants each require varying degrees of soil acidity or pH. Some plants are very sensitive to soil pH levels. Some garden plants will prefer acid soils while others prefer an alkaline soil. The acidity or alkalinity of soil is measured by pH (potential Hydrogen ions). pH is a measure of amount of lime (calcium) contained in your soil, and type of soil that you have. Soils in moist climates tend to be acid and those in dry climates are alkaline. A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil and one with a pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline. The soil must be adjusted to suit plant which will occupy that area if it is not already within that plants requirement range.Testing Your Soil pH Many garden centers will pH test a soil sample for you, or you can buy an inexpensive pH test kit at a nursery, or hardware stores. These test kits generally consist of a test tube, some testing solution and a color chart. You put a sample of your soil in tube, add a few drops of test solution, shake it up and leave it for an hour or so to settle. The solution in tube changes color according to pH of your soil. Compare color of sample with color chart that came with kit. Matching colors will tell you pH of your sample. Quality pH test kits will have a chart to help interpret test result.Adjusting Your Soil pH Levels Once you have determined pH you can make any needed adjustments to soil. Materials to adjust your soil pH levels are available at your local garden center.Raising The Soil pH To Make It More Alkaline It is generally easier to make soils more alkaline than it is to make them more acid. Because different soil types react in different ways to application of lime you will have to add more lime to clay soils and peaty soils than you will in sandy soils to achieve same result.