It All Starts With The Soil
"I have bad soil" is one of the most common phrases I hear from potential gardeners. And in our part of the country it's really not surprising. Black-land clay is what runs through most of the area. It can be sort of funny at times to hear casual conversation among our master gardening group when they pose the question, "What kind of soil do you have?" and if you are one of the few people to say, "sandy loam", you can literally here the "awwws" from the crowd. Yes, we have soil envy here...
Soil can be confusing at times on how to handle it. Most of us just keep dumping things in it sort of like homemade soup without a recipe, hoping we come up with the right formula. At least that's been my way of handling things for years. But what do you really need to do? Finding out my exact soil type and what it's lacking beforehand makes me REALLY look good as a gardener when my plants succeed!
I found this resource on soil maps available from the USDA. It's a bit tricky to maneuver around but the information is amazing. If you click on the green button titled, "Start RSS", you are on your way. It would even be great if you were looking to purchase certain types of land by using this tool.
I found out that our soil is called, "Wilson Silt Loam". Who would've thought? I'd never heard of such until I did this research. It made sense though when I thought about it further. It's a cropland soil and from what I've learned about the history of our property, cotton was grown here for quite a while.
Amazingly, when I did a bit more searching, the property directly across our narrow one-lane road in front of our house is "Black-Land Clay", while 200 feet to the east of our property is yet another soil called "Clayton Silt Loam." I don't know why, but that amazes me.
Thankfully the USDA website also gives very detailed information on each soil type that includes drainage, water retention, flooding potential, land use etc. Which is invaluable if you are trying to figure out what you can do with your property in the first place.
With the knowledge I have now, that our whole property is Wilson Silt Loam, I now only need to crank up the composter and start working it in. Now if I had Black-land Clay, well that's a whole other ballgame.
I am going write a series of posts on soil types, basic characteristics and some amendment options. Of course, it is ALWAYS best to have your soil tested through a place such as your county extension office for specific analysis and amendment recommendations. Soil can be altered a lot if you've had any work done on your property, you have a newly constructed home etc.