Determination of soil quality indicators
Having acquired his own piece of land, the novice landowner or summer resident begins his gardening work with improving the soil. But is it an improvement? If the site has been under natural vegetation for many years, it is quite possible that for several more years, even with intensive exploitation, the soil does not need to be “improved”. Therefore, to competently start your gardening, you must first of all:
- determine its physical condition (mechanical composition and structure),
- soil acidity (acidic, alkaline, neutral),
- chemical composition (supply of nutrients).
The most correct solution is to pass the soil to a specialized laboratory for analysis. If this is not possible, you can (approximately) preliminary the composition of the soil, the level of its structure and its availability of nutrients to determine independently.
The mechanical composition and structure of the soil
To preliminarily determine the type of soil, moisten a handful of earth and roll a bagel.
- A smooth ring without cracks indicates that you have clay.
- If the bagel is covered with several cracks - heavy loam.
- With the natural drying of the donut, its surface is covered with many cracks - the soil belongs to the middle loam.
- If the bagel breaks during folding, you have light loam.
- If the sausage does not work, it crumbles even when rolling, instead of full soil in front of you is sand.
- If during rolling the bagel crumbles into small individual lumps - sandy loam.
To determine the level of soil structure, it is enough to cut a layer of soil with a shovel and toss it into the air. When falling, structured soil will fall apart into separate elements - lumps, grains, etc. Clay heavy soil will fall whole pancake, and sand will crumble into dust.
All of these soil types need treatment. Heavy will not let water through. They are practically impervious to air. After watering, crust forms on such soils, and irrigation and rain water stagnate. Plants are in constant oppression. Sandy soil will freely let all the water through, taking with it the soluble form of fertilizer applied. Such soils must be treated before use. The main medicine is organics: manure (cow, horse, sheep, etc.), humus, composts. To increase the air permeability and structure of heavy (clay) soils, sawdust, finely chopped (not more than 5-6 cm) perennial grasses, shrubs, tree branches, bark will help. It is good to add turf and forest soils to sandstones, previously (from autumn) layering them with manure, peat, compost. In the spring, spread over the site and dig.
Treatment can be carried out in two ways:
- 2-3 years do not grow anything on the site. Only deal with treatment. In addition to the organic matter introduced during this period, year-round occupy an area of green manure, sowing and digging, when it reaches a height of 8-12 cm several times a season.
- Carry out the treatment in parallel with the cultivation of gardening and planting fruit crops. If the second method suits you better, you can’t use fresh manure for the crop and limit its rate for autumn digging (no more than 1 bucket / sq. M). Otherwise, sown and planted crops will burn.
The degree of acidity of various types of soils
For the normal development of plants, the reaction of the soil solution is of great importance. Soil acidity levels are divided into:
- Strongly acidic. These include swamps and lowland peatlands,
- Sour. Most often these are soils under coniferous crops, clay-soddy and peat bogs,
- Slightly acidic. Soddy and heather land
- Neutral The main soils for growing garden crops: turf, humus, deciduous, all types of black soil and others.
- Alkaline and highly alkaline. These include carbonate soils with a high content of calcium and its compounds.
In addition to the above gradations, there are also saline soils.
The vast majority of plants grow well and develop, form a full-fledged crop on neutral soils. Garden crops can be grown on slightly alkaline and slightly acidic soils, but inhibition of plants requiring neutral acidity will be noticeable.
Standard soil acidity testing
If it is not possible to conduct an analysis in a chemical laboratory, you can purchase a pH tester or litmus strips with a scale in specialized stores. It is enough to stir in a cup a lump of earth with water and lower the litmus test. Compare with scale. The changed color when compared with the scale will indicate the degree of acidity of the soil. For cultivated plants, the optimal soil is pH = 6.5-7.5.
An approximate determination of the degree of soil acidity by vegetable and weed vegetation
If there is no pH tester, did not stock up litmus strips, you can determine the approximate acidity of the soil from weeds.
On strongly- and medium-acid soils, horse and garden sorrel form almost half-meter thickets. On such soils, a large plantain has grown, the mountaineer is sorrelous, Ivan da Marya with tricolor violet and creeping buttercup look charming. A fine decorative carpet of common sour, green bryozoans will cover the damp places of a summer cottage.
Neutral and slightly acidic soils are always covered in spring with healthy green shoots of winter crops of dill, onions, salads. Pleased slender rows of peas, early potatoes. Seedlings of eggplant, sweet peppers, and tomatoes quickly take root.
If there is no winter or early spring sowing of vegetable crops, then a creeping wheat grass with garden sow thistle, bright green of coltsfoot, clovers and field bindweed wrapping around strawberries will confirm that the soil is suitable for growing the vast majority of garden vegetable products.
There are omnivorous weeds. Field bindweed with equal success grows on slightly acid-neutral-alkaline soils. In this case, you need to carefully look at the accompanying weeds. There are a lot of horsetail, starfish, and mosses - the soil is acidic, and if larkspur prevails, the tar is alkaline.
Garden crops need neutral soil. Transfer weakly acidic and weakly alkaline soil. In all other cases, the soil must be healed.
Home Rapid Soil Acid Analysis
Poor weed species? There are several other ways you can do a home-based rapid test to determine your acidity level.
1 method is suitable for determining soil acidity before leaf blooming.
- Sprinkle the soil with a layer of 1-2 fingers in a small bowl (small plate).
- Drip large drops of table vinegar on the soil in several places.
- If bubbles appear on the surface of the soil, it means that the soil is neutral. If there is no reaction, then the soil is acidic and needs to be deoxidized.
Method 2 is used if there are dark flowers (black, dark pink, red) in the house with grape juice (not wine). In a container with juice, throw a lump of soil.
- If the juice changes color and bubbles appear on the surface, it means that there are enough calcium salts in the soil and it has a neutral reaction.
- If the solution remains unchanged - the soil is acidic.
Method 3 is usually used in summer. Boil tea from the leaves of currant or cherry. Cool well and throw some earth into the solution.
- If the solution turns red, it means that the site has an acid reaction and is not suitable for vegetable crops.
- The green or blue color of the solution indicates, respectively, a neutral or slightly acidic soil reaction.
These methods of determining the degree of soil acidity are usually used if landscape shrubs (conifers, heathers, rhododendrons) are planted.
How to change the acidity of the soil?
To reduce acidity, acidic soils are usually calcified using
- ground limestone
- dolomite flour
- burnt slaked and quicklime,
- ground chalk
- peat peat,
If there is industry nearby, then its waste can be used for deoxidation of soils:
- shale ash
- cement dust
- peat ash
- gas lime.
On light soils, it is better to use dolomite flour. On heavy, limestones or ash elements are more effective.
To increase acidity, they bring coniferous soil, horse peat, mineral fertilizers with an active acid reaction, mulch with half-ripened needles. It should be noted that the long-term introduction of some mineral fertilizers gradually acidifies the soil, and it needs periodic deoxidation or the introduction of organic matter (manure, humus, compost). Highly effective fertilizer and a good deoxidizer is wood ash. When burning in ash, (except nitrogen), all the main nutrients and trace elements remain.
Signs of plant nutrient deficiency
For normal growth and development, plants need a balanced amount of essential nutrients and trace elements. Deficiency or excess of an element can be immediately identified by the results of chemical analysis of plant organs. But, if the laboratory is far, you can independently diagnose the state of the soil and plants without special equipment. According to the relevant signs, you can independently determine the insufficiency or excess of the main elements of nutrition and microelements. Trace elements have a positive effect on the background of a sufficient amount of organic matter in the soil.
Remember! Disfigured, small, tasteless vegetables are the first sign of micronutrient deficiency in the soil.
The growth of healthy, not damaged by the disease, plants is delayed. Leaves acquire an unnaturally light green color, and the lower old leaves are yellowness. In relation to the main stem, the leaves are located at an acute angle. Shoots sometimes have a reddish tint.
Excess nitrogen gives a surge of increased overgrowth of vegetative mass. Inadequate flowering. The period of formation of the fruit is delayed. They do not ripen.
The leaves are intensely dark green with shades of bluish, red, bronze. Some cultures have red leaves that are not characteristic of them. There are almost no yellow shades even on old leaves. Leaf blades are small, old become spotty. Blacken when dried. Flowering is delayed.
Pronounced variegation, in some plants with a bluish-green color. The manifestation of deficiency begins with the middle part of the shoots. At the tops of plants, chlorotic spots surround areas of extinct tissue. The tops and edges of the lower leaves of young plants are wrinkled, wrap themselves down. With severe starvation, the edges of the leaves turn brown and dry, and even individual shoots.
The leaf blade is covered with whitish (almost white) spots in large leaf veins. In some plants, the color of the marginal veins becomes red or purple. Leaf death is almost not observed.
The leaves are small, narrow, hard to the touch. With separate chlorotic spots. Collected in multi-leaf sockets on the tops of young shoots. It is not the leaf that dies, but its individual sections throughout the leaf blade, capturing the lateral and central veins. Dead tissue breaks up.
The growth point of the stems of the aerial mass and root system dies. A dwarf bush is formed from thickened stems with fine foliage. Flowering is rare, the ovaries fall in the early stages of development. The tops of the shoots dry up, the fruit has a lot of cork tissue, the flesh is rough with a bitter taste.
Pale green color of leaf blades, but leaf death, as with a lack of nitrogen, is not observed.
Total chlorosis of the whole plant until the end of the growing season without the death of leaves and stems.
Chlorosis of individual large sections of the aerial mass of plants. In contrast to iron deficiency, pronounced whitening of the ends of leaf blades is observed.
It begins to appear with old leaves. First, their edges turn yellow, and then the entire leaf blade. In this case, the veins on the leaf blade remain green. Over time, young shoots are affected and die off.