A formula for success.
Hi everybody, this is Joe Lamp’l and welcome to Burpee Home Gardens Tip of the Week.
Well in last week’s podcast, we talked about three basic elements you need to create a healthy and manageable garden: Plenty of sunlight, rich healthy soil, and a bit of restraint.
This week, though, I want to focus in more on what exactly makes rich, healthy soil and how do you know when you get there. Well first of all, for plants to thrive, nearly all soils need to be improved, commonly known as amended (as in “amended soil”). Typically, as-is, soil is either too sandy and water drains right through it before the roots have a chance to take up the water. Or the soil is too heavy, like with clay, and water doesn’t drain fast enough. Consequently, the soil can become so saturated, plants can literally drown. But fear not; we can fix either problem with the addition of soil amendments.
Now to begin, take comfort in knowing that this is not an exact science in my book. It’s simply a matter of adding organic matter, such as rotted leaves or aged manure, decompose wood mulch or, my favorite, compost. And the best mix is a combination of several options for your Burpee Home Garden plants to thrive. But why is that? Well first of all, understand that soil is almost always a mixture of sand, silt and clay, with the only variable being the percentage of each.
So think of each component is a different particle size. Imagine that sand particles are basketballs, silt particles are tennis balls, and clay the size of golf balls. If you had only basketballs in a container, as with sandy soil, that’s a lot of air space between the balls, so water runs right through it. Clay soil, on the other hand, with all-golf balls, doesn’t have enough space. In the perfect world, using the balls as our example, you’d want about equal parts of each to create optimal conditions for air and water drainage, as well as retention. And that’s why adding organic matter to your soil helps introduce various particle sizes and opens up the soil.
But in addition, over time, all of these organic soil amendments create something called humus, which helps with water retention, nutrient availability, and allows soil particles to bind together in a favorable way. But since the topic of soil science is beyond the scope of this podcast, let’s just summarize what you should know to make it simple.
No matter what you’re starting with, whether it’s loose sandy soil or heavy clay, in either case you want to add enough amendment so that when you squeeze a handful of soil it binds together. But as you run your fingers lightly through it, it easily breaks apart. So use this example to create your ideal garden soil and the perfect growing environment.
Now in our next podcast, we’ll talk more about my favorite-of-all soil amendments compost, why it’s so important, and how you can make it at home for free. Beyond that, we’ll have a whole series of podcasts to get you off to a great start with your Burpee Home Garden seedlings and what to do throughout the entire growing season every step of the way. And be sure to check out burpeehomegardens.com for more ideas and inspiration online. Thanks for listening everybody! This is Joe Lamp’l and we’ll be right back here next week for another Burpee Home Gardens Tip of the Week.