Observation: Soil

Soil can change from spot to spot in your yard. Your veggie garden certainly has more organic matter in the soil than other areas, and while you may take great care of your turf, chances are the topsoil under it is far shallower than you think. There are a few different things to identify about the soils in your space.

There are a couple of different ways to tell what kind of soil you have. One is the ribbon test and one is the jar test. The ribbon test is ‘quick and dirty’, and the jar test takes longer, but gives you more information about your soils. You can work with this information a few different ways. You can either take samples from individual areas to get a better read on each spot and label the patchwork on your map, or if you feel that your soil is fairly consistent throughout your space, you can take equally sized samples from a few areas, put them together and measure them for an average. The former would be better if you have areas that have been and will be treated differently, and the latter would be perfectly legit if your space is and will be fairly homogenous.

Now that you know how to tell what kind of soil you have, you can better look out for where there are distinct differences.

Where in your space does water sit for a long time? Where does it drain quickly? Are there areas of your soil that are compacted and hard, like paths or areas where equipment is used a lot? Where are a lot of weeds present? (Which actually tells you more about soil than you think.) Are there areas that are tilled regularly? Zones where nothing ever grows? Spots with weed fabric or rock mulch? Are there spots in your space where mushrooms pop up after a good rain? Any areas that are bare and exposed? Cracked? Do worms congregate in certain areas, or are they completely missing? Are there any areas where leaf debris seems to break down more quickly? Do you use salts on your sidewalks and driveway in the winter? If so, how does the soil next to those areas look? How well do the plants in the salt zones perform? Note all of things on your map because in the soil chapter you’ll learn how to repair or deal with these areas, and in the plant area you’ll learn about plants that are more tolerant to odd soil conditions.

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