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Allotment Gardening
Grow all you can eat on your own allotment.
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20:32, 10th May 2014

Smallholding for Sale in North Devon
Three bedroom detached house in 18 acres for sale - North Devon, UK
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Find out more about nettles - how to benefit from them and how to get rid of them
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Making Nettle Beer
Find out how to make your nettle beer
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How to Make Sloe Gin
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Grow Your Own Chilli Peppers
Find out how to grow your own chilli peppers
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Find out more about keeping bees in your garden for honey
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Storing Apples
Find out how to store apples
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Types of Soil

Learn about the different types of soil

Types Of Soil

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Soil is an essential part of growing your own food. Though you can improve your soil through fertilization and digging, basically you have to make do with what you have got and choose your crops accordingly. You will spend a lot of time looking at your humus rich top soil, but the sub soil is also important as it dictates how well your land will drain and it also provides minerals to your crops.

There are four main soil types: clay, loam, sand, and peat, with loam being a mixture of sand and clay.

Clay soil

Clay soil (pictured above) is the most difficult to manage, but with skill and experience can yield excellent crops. The problem with clay is its tendency to form a sticky unworkable mess. When clay is wet and you walk over it for example permanent damage is done to the structure of the soil - sticky when wet, and hard as a brick when dry. However, if you leave clay alone when it is wet, add compost or some form of manure, and plough it before the frosts come, it is possible to develop a well draining, easily worked plot. The addition of some sand also helps in extreme cases.

Sandy soil

Sandy soil (pictured above) is easier to deal with, but it is hungry. If you add organic matter such as compost to sandy soil the nutrients are quickly washed away. Also sandy soil suffers in drought conditions as it drains so much faster than a heavy soil. However, with heavy top dressings of manure, and the addition of some lime (to overcome the natural acidity of sandy soil) good crops will be obtained (though crops from heavy soils are better in general). Sandy soil is also excellent for keeping livestock as it does not get sticky when wet or when walked over.

Loam soil

Loam (pictured above) is the intermediate between clay soil and sandy soil. It drains well, but also holds nutrients well. With the addition of a little humus, and sometimes a little lime, a loam is often the best soil for most growing.

Peat soil

Peat soil (pictured above) is very rare which is a pity because it contains so many nutrients. Peat forms when vegetable matter dies and settles at the bottom of a swamp. Over many many years more and more layers of organic matter are added, compressing what is already there, as the whole lot undergoes anaerobic (no oxygen) decay. Left for millions of years peat would eventually become coal. Where peat exists in a naturally drained peat field, there is no better soil in the world for cultivating.

Article Published: 13:16, 6th Apr 2006

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