What makes soil tick

When you have great soil, you don’t really need to give it much thought.  Just pop the plants in, they grow wonderfully, you harvest a bountiful crop and then chuck in some more compost and fertilisers to replace what was lost and away you go again.  And for most people that is how it is.  For me that is how it was.

Productive garden
It is very easy to take a productive garden for granted.

But then you move house and end up with less than perfect soil.  To get the best out of it, you need to understand it.  Like really understand it.  So, I have been on a bit of a journey to find out more about sandy soil, so I know how to care for it.  I have a long history of plant science studies over the years.  Some of this knowledge is tucked so far back into the recesses of my mind as I wasn’t sure I would ever need it, but as I researched this complex topic of soil science, it tickled something in my mind and the words I was reading seemed vaguely familiar.

Sandy, seaside location
Starting again in less than idea conditions can be a little daunting.

This journey of discovery was a fascinating one, and to find out about sandy soil and what makes it tick took me into understanding the nature of soil, the relationship of organic materials that we carelessly say ‘add to sandy soil to fix it’; the importance of the microorganisms, the nutrients plants need to live, the role of water in the whole situation, basic chemistry that I had deliberately blocked from my memory, gosh I didn’t enjoy that subject at school; but also refreshed my memory as to how plants actually worked.  Some of the documents I read were quite basic and left me wondering ‘but why?’ and others were university papers that left me bamboozled and wondering ‘huh?’

New Zealand bush
How is this impressive life sustained and how is the soil actually involved?

But with the benefit of the great big internet I was able to take the light and heavy documents to find what I was looking for, sift through the conflicting material and measure it against what I could remember being taught, sort the reputable sources from the fluffy ones and found myself not only unravelling the mysteries of the soil but actually enjoying it.

I’m going to get down and dirty to find out how soil actually works.

In order to lock it into my brain, making it easy to access and apply as I work in this new environment, I need to order my notes in a way that I can understand, which is pretty much to bring it all together in a logical way and turn it all into plain English that goes beyond ‘that is the way it is because I said so!’  I find if I know why, then everything seems to fall in place.  So here is as good a place as any to get my thoughts in order.   The question is where to start? With the soil or with the plant?   To understand sandy soil, you need to know how plants work, but to understand how plants work you need to know what goes on in the soil.

fern bud
Unravelling and understanding soil starts with the plant!

I think I’ll break it into bite sized chunks over the next wee while to make it easy to digest.  So, while this post isn’t instructional or informative, it lets you know I’m about to do a wee series on basic soil and plant science in a way I can understand it, so it should be easy enough for you to share in this collection of ‘aha moments’ as I seek to garden well in this new place.  There should be something for everyone.

Come again soon – I think I’ll start with the plant and work towards to soil.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

10 thoughts on “What makes soil tick

  1. I don’t envy you your ongoing new occupation. However I can admire your hard work and sheer determination. Keep well Sarah your going to need it. My compliments to the Gardener. Regards Julie

    1. Thanks Julie. It is going to be hard work, but I am determined to create something wonderful here, and it is worth the effort because it is such a wonderful place to live. : o)

  2. Hurrah for the Internet! I have mostly hardened on clay, and feel comfortable with this, so understand your uncertainty! Look forward to reading about your progress!

    1. The internet can be a blessing and a curse. There is so much conflicting information – even in something as absolute as biology so it is taking all my skills to pick my way through it. But because I have and end goal – my new garden – it makes it all worthwhile. : o)

  3. When we were in school, we took a few ‘soil science’ classes. It seemed odd to us in the beginning, because we had always taken the soil for granted. Of course, it makes sense now.

    1. I took soil science classes too, but back then I struggled with it as it was quite heavy going. But now with a greater understanding of why I need to know it and practical experience of using it, it makes much more sense for me too! : o)

Leave a Reply