The chances are that you will not find a spot of ideal garden soil
ready for use anywhere upon your place. But all except the very worst
of soils can be brought up to a very high degree of productiveness--
especially such small areas as home vegetable gardens require. Large
tracts of soil that are almost pure sand, and others so heavy and mucky
that for centuries they lay uncultivated, have frequently been brought,
in the course of only a few years, to where they yield annually
tremendous crops on a commercial basis. So do not be discouraged about
your soil. Proper treatment of it is much more important, and a garden-
patch of average run-down,--or "never-brought-up" soil--will produce
much more for the energetic and careful gardener than the richest spot
will grow under average methods of cultivation.
The ideal garden soil is a "rich, sandy loam." And the fact cannot be
overemphasized that such soils usually are made, not found. Let us
analyze that description a bit, for right here we come to the first of
the four all-important factors of gardening--food. The others are
cultivation, moisture and temperature. "Rich" in the gardener's
vocabulary means full of plant food; more than that--and this is a
point of vital importance--it means full of plant food ready to be used
at once, all prepared and spread out on the garden table, or rather in
it, where growing things can at once make use of it; or what we term,
in one word, "available" plant food. Practically no soils in long-
inhabited communities remain naturally rich enough to produce big
crops. They are made rich, or kept rich, in two ways; first, by
cultivation, which helps to change the raw plant food stored in the
soil into available forms; and second, by manuring or adding plant food
to the soil from outside sources.
"Sandy" in the sense here used, means a soil containing enough
particles of sand so that water will pass through it without leaving it
pasty and sticky a few days after a rain; "light" enough, as it is
called, so that a handful, under ordinary conditions, will crumble and
fall apart readily after being pressed in the hand. It is not necessary
that the soil be sandy in appearance, but it should be friable.
"Loam: a rich, friable soil," says Webster. That hardly covers it, but
it does describe it. It is soil in which the sand and clay are in
proper proportions, so that neither greatly predominate, and usually
dark in color, from cultivation and enrichment. Such a soil, even to
the untrained eye, just naturally looks as if it would grow things. It
is remarkable how quickly the whole physical appearance of a piece of
well cultivated ground will change. An instance came under my notice
last fall in one of my fields, where a strip containing an acre had
been two years in onions, and a little piece jutting off from the
middle of this had been prepared for them just one season. The rest had
not received any extra manuring or cultivation. When the field was
plowed up in the fall, all three sections were as distinctly noticeable
as though separated by a fence. And I know that next spring's crop of
rye, before it is plowed under, will show the lines of demarcation just
as plainly.
This, then, will give you an idea of a good garden soil. Perhaps in
yours there will be too much sand, or too much clay. That will be a
disadvantage, but one which energy and perseverance will soon overcome
to a great extent--by what methods may be learned in Chapter VIII.

The Raised Bed THE SOIL AND ITS PREPARATION facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail