How To Determine A Healthy Blend Of Topsoil
Topsoil should not contain too much clay or have an acidic pH. You existing soil can be tested to detect mineral levels and overall health.
First, what is topsoil? Is it different from garden soil? Why is it important? Topsoil is the outmost layer of earth. Usually it will stretch anywhere from the top two to the top eight inches of soil. It has an extremely high concentration of microorganisms and organic matter. At this level, most of the Earth’s soil-based biological activities occur. For example, the vast majority of plants concentrate the roots in the first few inches of earth. This highest layer of soil ends at the first densely pack layer of subsoil. There are many factors that go into maintaining healthy topsoil, which also happens to be the key to most quality crops.
To start, garden soil and topsoil are very different. For those who plan to purchase specially formulated earth for their gardens, it is important to understand the distinction between the two. Generally, topsoil has less clay and sand composition because these materials retain too much water. It is typically used for larger scale landscaping projects. It also is a multipurpose option that contains fewer added ingredients and minerals. Conversely, garden soil has a higher concentration of sand, silt, clay and other minerals. Packages are often specifically designed for a type of garden such flowers, vegetables or herbs.
To make the right choice in topsoil composition, a gardener or landscaper must understand his or her needs. Will there be crops growing in this field? Will shrubbery and flowers dominate the area? Is there going to be livestock? For instance, crops of peaches do best in sandy soil, while a massive plot of grass can survive well with a less expensive multi-purpose option. Once there is a consensus on what exactly is needed, homeowners or landscapers should perform tests on the existing soil to find out what is already there. Sometimes, adding a specific mineral can balance the pH or increase phosphorus levels, which can minimize the cost and time spent on the project.
A soil test should be performed when beginning a gardening or landscaping endeavor. There is a full gambit of minerals to check to make sure the topsoil is healthy. To begin, the pH or acid/base level should be within 5.8 to 6.2. This means a slightly more basic than water, which is the standard of neutrality. Phosphorous and potassium should be in the index of 50. Manganese, zinc and copper should be less than 25 on the index. Additionally, calcium should be 40 to 60 percent of the Cation Exchange Capacity or CEC.
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Brett has had a lifelong interest in plants and trees and writes about his interest as a creative outlet. You can read his latest musings at landscaping blog.
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