A strong garden foundation starts with good soil knowledge; a good gardener really knows their dirt! As the soil is pretty much the home space or incubator for every plant, it is extremely important that the sediment is a healthy and nurturing environment. Soil can consist of different layers of types of dirt, such as sand, clay, and silt – or simply exist as a single one of those elements. We see examples of singularities such as sand at the beach, mudpits, and clay beds. Each one has its own characteristics that dictate the growth and health of a plant. However, most of the time we see dirt, it is a composite of those three and sharing those characteristics.
Sand: has very large individual grains and particles which do not hold water very well. This affects the plant’s ability to absorb water and grow.
Silt: is a good soil base for plants to grow in but can be easily blown away by rains/wind
Clay: gets very heavy when wet and super strong/resistant when dry. This prevents the plant’s roots from spreading and growing.
The students and I discussed why and why not each type of sediment would be good for the plants, and some even hypothesized that a combination of the three would be the best option. This brought us to Loam, the best soil combination of those three.
After identifying loam as the best combo, we did a soil test of the beds to determine if they contained loam or other forms of soil. Each student took a soil sample from several beds, and we circled up to perform the squeeze test as well as discuss how the soil smelled, felt, tasted, and looked. Some examples were “earthy”, “moist”, and “sweet”.