The best time to recognize the nature of good or bad soil is either during a drought (summer) or after a long rain (the rest of the year).
The details you will discover in this article are mostly valid for clay soils, but most of them can also be applied to other types of soils.
What are the symptoms of bad soil?
- First of all, we can see that the vegetables are not growing well!
- Their rooting is superficial, the roots do not manage to go deep.
- This makes the vegetables more sensitive to the slightest lack of water.
- In summer, the soil is dry and hard. When we try to loosen it, all we get are big compact clods, impossible to crumble.
- In the spring, it is the opposite. The soil is soaked with cold water that it warms up slowly. And it is so sticky that it is often impossible to work.
- When you look closely at a clod, you can sometimes see grey or red areas or even blue veins, signs of an asphyxiated structure (lack of air).
- Few earthworms live in this kind of soil.
How did this happen?
- Either the soil was bad at the beginning (backfill soil after a construction).
- Or it has deteriorated over the years:
- By the repeated passages of the rototiller, which created a “sole of ploughing”.
- By the gardener’s feet under which it has settled.
- The bare soil has been beaten by heavy rains.
- Sand was brought in a clay soil, and the mixture formed like “cement”.
- The soil has exhausted its humus because no organic matter has been brought in regularly.
Let’s see now what characterizes a good vegetable garden soil.
What are the signs of good soil:
- Vegetables grow well, with deep roots.
- Crops produce abundant harvests.
- The soil drains well even after heavy rains.
- It is dark in color because it contains humus.
- The subsoil is teeming with life and is aerated by numerous earthworms that dig their galleries.
- Dry or wet, good soil retains just the right amount of air and water because its structure is loose and lumpy.
- The soil remains supple all year long and hardly needs to be worked at all: just a preparation with the hook before sowing or planting a vegetable.
How to obtain such quality soil:
- Develop the life of the soil by stimulating all the fauna that populates it: earthworms, micro-organisms…
- Avoid turning the soil over and upsetting all these little creatures:
- By using the grelinette or the spading fork to aerate the soil.
- Avoid trampling the cultivated areas.
Improve soil structure by adding organic matter at the right time of year:
- In the form of green manure crops,
- In the form of compost, mulch or manure.
- Do not leave the soil bare at any time of the year.
- Water regularly and sufficiently in summer to avoid the formation of cracks, which will increase evaporation and absorb all the water.
- Manage your land as a good father, being careful to “give back” instead of always “taking”.
- Adopt the new “living soil” gardening techniques that respect the soil.