Soil is the base that holds the nutrients that your plants will need to grow. the ideal vegetable garden has easily worked soil that drains well and contains at least 5% organic matter such as compost materials. Below are the elements of soil to familiarize yourself with:
sandy soil contains large particles, feels gritty and does not form a ball when squeezed in your hand. This type of soil drains easily but does not store nutrients well. You should add compost or other organic matter to feed your plants. Root crops like carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, radishes, turnips and rutabagas like sandy soil and tend to do better in it.
Clay soil consists of tiny particles and easily compresses into a ball when wet. Clay easily becomes compacted which is not so good for your root vegetables. Some things you can add to your clay soil are sand, which will loosen the soil and let it drain.
Loam is the in between of sand and clay. It usually consists of 40% sand and 40% silt and 20% clay. Loamy soils store moisture and nutrients. When you squeeze it, loam forms a ball that crumbles when poked with a finger.
Acidic VS. Alkaline
Soils can be acidic, alkaline or neutral. Soil pH values range from 0.0 to 14.0. Most soils have a range from 3.5 to 10.0. It is important to have your garden soil tested to establish its pH. From there you can determine what amendments to add including fertilizers. You can buy a do-it-yourself kit at garden stores.
Now that you have tested and prepared your soil, you are ready to plant. Most gardeners till in the spring. It is important to note that you shouldn’t till in wet soil, especially if you have clay soil. Tilling in wet soil will cause compaction, when large air spaces between soil particles collapse. Without large pore spaces, aeration decreases, and soil cannot absorb moisture.
To till, start at one end of your garden, and work back and forth. Make one pass, stop and then walk the garden plat while picking up rocks and roots.