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Gardening On the North Coast

Soil Types
Soil Organics
Soil Differences
Soil Improvement
Improving Heavy Soil
Improving Light Soil
Inorganic Materials
Care and Maintenance
More Maintenance
Soil pH
Humus and Compost
Soil Mulches

The Importance of Soil.

Soil plays a big part in the way plants grow because of its relationship to the roots. Though plants obtain some of the raw material for their growth from the air, they depend totally on the roots to gather most of the necessary moisture and fertility. This is where the soil comes in. Roots make use of it not only for anchoring plants and holding them in place, but also as a storehouse for food elements and water.

Since roots are alive and need oxygen, the soil needs to be porous; air for the roots to "breathe" is dragged into the pores of the soil behind water that drains through it.

Microscopic organisms in the soil perform useful duties, such as decomposing dead plants and thus unlocking nutrients for reuse, trapping nitrogen from the air and changing it into a form (nitrates) that plants can use, effecting transformations in the soil where many elements are temporarily "fixed" and then released later in different form. In other words, you need life in your soil to make food available for the plants. Conditions in the soil should therefore encourage these workers, your crew!

Ideally, your soil should be of crumbly and porous structure so that provisions for air and water are perfect. Its particles should be of a type able to absorb and hold vast fertility. It would be nice, too, if there were no weed seeds, insects or disease spores in it! However, the only way to have all of this would be to gather special ingredients, and mix and sterilize them as a florist does his greenhouse potting soil. A more practical approach is this: if the soil in your yard is particularly poor in some respect, correct the major difficulty as best you can, concentrating your effort where it will do the most good.