Preparing a healthy soil Part – 1: Knowing the soil

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Preparing a healthy soil Part – 1

Let’s get to know some basics

Many of us prefer to use coco peat (CP) along with vermi compost. Many do market it as the core alternative to soil less gardening. It is light in weight, stores good amount of water and nutrients. However one needs to understand few facts here. CP as a source does not contain any additional nutrients. It does not maintain a suitable environment for natural microbial activities and hence needs top up of nutrients frequently. In my experience CP mix has also been found to be host of mealy bugs sourced by ants. Hence to maintain a cost effective organic garden one needs to know the ways of preparing a potting mix which includes soil and CP. This perfect potting mix will be helpful in sustaining organic growth at pretty low costs.

Why soil?

The properties of soil that affect plant growth include texture, aeration. A vital function of soil is storing and supplying minerals and nutrients essential for plant life. This is referred to as soil fertility. The proportions of clay and organic matter found in soil influence its fertility.

As a regulator and collector of water, soil absorbs and stores moisture for plants and organisms to use. It also shelters plants against extreme temperatures and protects roots from direct sunlight. Moreover, living organisms of various sizes thrive in soil. There are microorganisms and insects in soil that improve it, allowing plants to grow better. These tiny microorganisms, such as fungi and bacteria, decompose the soil and transform old, dead materials into raw materials that plants need for growth.

The quality of soil is important for the health of plants and the humans and animals that consume plants. Organic soil is rich in humus as a result of decaying materials such as leaves, grass clippings and compost. It holds moisture, but drains well. A Good organic soil should be loose and fluffy, filled with air that plant roots need.  It should have plenty of minerals essential for vigorous plant growth. It should be alive with living organisms such as earthworms, fungi and bacteria. Proper pH is also an essential characteristic of healthy soil.

Types of soil found in India

In Indian sub-continent we get six different types of soil. They differ in composition and structure.

Alluvial Soils: These are formed by the deposition of sediments by rivers. They are rich in humus and very fertile.

Black Soils: These soils are made up of volcanic rocks and lava-flow. Rich in Lime, Iron, Magnesium and Potash content it still lacks in Phosphorus, Nitrogen and Organic matter.

Red Soils: These are derived from weathering of ancient metamorphic rocks of Deccan Plateau. Its redness is due to iron composition. When iron content is lower it is yellow or brown.

Laterite Soils: These soils are formed due to in­tense leaching and are well developed on the sum­mits of hills and uplands.

Mountain Soils: These soils are formed as a result of the accumulation of organic matter derived from forest growth. They are found in Himalayan region and vary in different regions according to altitude.

Desert Soils: As evaporation is in excess of rainfall, the soil has a high salt content and saline layer forms a hard crust. These soils are gen­erally sandy and deficient in organic matter.

Gardeners prefer red soil which naturally develops in a warm, temperate, wet climate that have thin organic and mineral layers. This blends well with organic mix and gives the plants a lush faster growth. However the perfect soil for preparing a good quality organic potting mix would be an alluvial soil. With my little experience I can vouch you can also turn the clayey soil found in many parts of the city into a perfect soil with a bit of hard work.

I will write in detail about the much awaited perfect soil mix as the second part of this article.

Note: My Tamil typing software is having some problems identifying advanced grammar content. Will write this as a separate article in Tamil once the issue is resolved.

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