Countless ages ago the mighty globe upon which we live was cast from the sun; a molten mass of red-hot rock. Its surface cooled and cracked, gradually became rock; the rock crumbled, decayed, and finally became soil, and plants started to grow from it.
Where plants can grow there is soil; therefore even on the bare surface of a rock we have the growth of lichens, which produce a chemical action within their own structures and are able to dissolve a little of the solid rock and manufacture some food for their sustenance. As the rock, so is the soil which comes from it when it disintegrates.
Types of Soil
Sandy soils are usually made up of rather large particles. They are very well drained, which results in their being rather lacking in plant food because such elements as are found naturally within the sand are soon carried away by the water. Sandy soils work easily. They warm up early in the spring and are consequently chosen by market gardeners for growing early crops.
Clay soils are made up of very fine particles of disintegrated rock. They hold tremendous quantities of water, which means that they are poorly drained. They are inclined to contain more plant food than sandy soils, and they do not warm early in the spring.
Loam. The soil experts tell us that loam is a mixture between sand and clay. But the gardener defines a loam differently. He says that loam is a mixture between sand and clay, which contains considerable fibrous material. This fibrous material may be manure or the roots of plants which previously grew in the soil, so that to a gardener a loam is the ideal soil in which to grow plants. It has enough clay to retain some moisture and possesses sufficient food for sustaining plant life. It has enough sand to give the soil the right texture and porosity, and it has the right bacteria derived from the decaying vegetation. Soil bacteria are very necessary because from inorganic rocks the bacteria have the ability to manufacture substances which the plant takes from the soil.
Conquering a Stubborn Soil
In building our homes there is always a great quantity of soil which must be excavated to build the basement. This soil should never be scattered over the valuable top soil. Top soil is soil in which plants have been growing for years and years, and such soils, even tho they may not be rich, do have quantities of decayed roots and bacteria which will transform the raw materials into food for our plants. Soils which are naturally too heavy and contain too large a percentage of clay are not ideal for growing most of our garden flowers.
Soil Amendments. Certain things can be done to change the physical character of soils. If you have a stubborn soil which dries out too quickly or does not dry sufficiently in the spring to be properly worked, or which packs into hard clods, or which refuses to produce good plants, you can use one of the so called soil amendments. A soil amendment is something which we add to the soil to change its physical texture.
If we keep our autumn leaves and our garden trash and spade it into the soil in the fall of the year, allowing the surface to remain rough thru the winter, the action of the frost will break up the soil into fine, mellow particles.
Another method of improving this sort of soil is by adding to it sand, peatmoss (spread about 1 inch deep), and leafmold.
Lesser Elements of Soil