Garden Soil Issues
Developing ideal soil conditions can take both time and work. Developing and maintain good soil is a rewarding endeavor that will lead to greater harvest and healthier plants. Identifying soil issues early on can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
Alkalinity: Alkaline soil has a high concentration of Calcium Carbonate. It is also most common in soil with a high concentration of clay. Some plants do well in alkaline soil such as: Cabbage, brussels sprouts, mustard, and turnips. Vegetables such as tomatoes do not do will in alkaline soil.
You can test your soil with a ph soil test kit. If the ph is 7.4 or higher than you have alkaline soil. A good amount of watering can lessen the alkalinity of your soil. You can also add compost, sawdust, leaves, and peat moss in order to make the soil more acidic.
Salinity: Salinity (high salt content) can be a big issue in some areas. Soil with a high salt content can lead to plants having “salt burn.” One symptom of salt burn is that the outer edges of plants leaves will start to turn yellow and brown. Salinity can be lessened through heavy watering, which will cause the salt to drain out. However, you will want to make sure that the soil has good drainage. Adding manure and compost can also help with salinity and soil drainage.
Acidity: Acidity is most common in areas with heavy rain fall. However, it’s not common in the Western States. Ammonium based fertilizers are the leading cause of soil acidification. Nitrogen is an important component in gardening and contributes to accelerated plant growth. However, if you use too much nitrogen, the nitrogen that was not used up by the plants will leach out of the soil leaving behind nitrogen ions, which in turn will increase the acidity of the soil.
Acidic soil can cause plants to become nutrient deficient even if a liberal amount of fertilizer has been used. The most common and economical method for improving acidic soil is to use lime. Lime for agricultural purposes generally comes from crushed limestone, dolomitic limestone, and limesand taken form coastal dunes. Lime should only be used if you are certain that acidity is effecting your plants. The amount of lime that you use will depend on your soil, how much it rains, and the quality of the lime being used.
Chlorosis: Chlorosis is an issue in plants where they cannot produce enough chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their color. As such, clorosis is evidenced in plants that have yellow, or in extreme cases white leaves. There are many reasons why plants may suffer from chlorosis. These issues include mineral deficiency such as iron, zinc, and magnesium. A deficiency is nitrogen can also be a common cause. Other issues include compacted roots, poor drainage causing water logged roots, pesticides and herbicides, or exposure to sulfur dioxide.
Dry Soil: Dry soil is a common issue with sandy soil. Sandy soil drains quickly and as such doesn’t retain enough moisture for plant growth. The best solution is to mix in a lot of compost which will both help with retaining moisture, as well as adding nutrients to the soil. However, the issue with compost is that it takes a long time for organic matter to break down into usable compost. I have found that horse manure works exceptionally well at adding structure to soil. In conjunction with using compost and horse manure, adding mulch will aid in preventing water from evaporating.
Soil that it too wet: Soil that is too wet can cause plant roots to become waterlogged. This is a common issue with soil that has a high clay content or is in an area near the water table. Adding sand and gravel can help with drainage. Another trick is to add worms which will create tunnels that help with drainage. In many cases your best bet is to use raised beds.