The two additional benefits of soil amending is overcoming some of our extreme conditions and water conservation.
How Soil Amending Overcomes Extreme Conditions
A healthy population of beneficial soil life leads to healthy soil, and healthy plants. This all means less maintenance for the gardener and a better-looking garden. Improving the biological, chemical and physical components of the soil allows Texas Panhandle gardeners to successfully grow a wider range of plants -- a greatly expanded plant palette.
Specifically, amending the soil for organic content and drainage improves our gardening success with these extremes conditions (as listed in the Introduction):
- Reduces compaction and helps in-soak of precipitation
- Reduces alkalinity of soil
- Increases the organic content of soil
- Helps balance the mineral content of the soil
- Buffers saline and toxic soil conditions
- Improves the physical structure of the soil -- the way the soil particles are grouped together
- Lessens the amount of irrigation
- Provides more water and nutrients for timely plant recovery when faced with windy conditions, hail damage and damage caused by rapid temperature shifts
- Plants have improved immune systems that enable them to fight off diseases and predators, they are stronger, rather than weaker under extreme conditions
- Improved soil drainage allows gardeners to use an expanded palette of low water-use plants that are marginally cold hardy for our area.
Amending your soil is a primary step in water conservation.
- The addition of both organic and the newer inorganic amendments retain water and nutrients in the root zone.
- When the plants have ample nutrients in the root zone, they require less water for the nutrients’ uptake. This means less irrigating, less often. Salt content of the soil is not increased to the same degree as with the addition of fertilizers or constant irrigation.
- The drainage capacity of the soil is improved, thus allowing rainwater and irrigating to soak in better, rather than running off. The precipitation received is used, not lost.
I have found these books particularly useful in understanding and amending my soil:
Dirt Doctor’s Guide to Organic Gardening, Howard Garrett, University of Texas Press, 1995
Gardening Success with Difficult Soils, Limestone, Alkaline Clay, and Caliche, Scott Ogden, Taylor Publishing company, 1992
Soil Biology Primer, published by the Soil and Water Conservation Society in cooperation with the USDA Resources Conservation Service, 2000, or www.soilfoodweb.com
Soul of the Soil, Grace Gershuny, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 4th Edition, 1999
Start With The Soil, Grace Gershuny, Rodale Press, 1993
Teaming With Microbes, A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis, Timber Press, 2006.
The Garden-Ville Method, Lessons in Nature, Malcolm Beck, Published by Garden-Ville, Inc., 1998, recently revised
The Gardener's A – Z Guide to Growing, Tanya L. K. Denckla, Storey Publishing, 2003.
The Soil and Health, Sir Albert Howard, Devin-Adair Company, 1947, reprinted by Schocken Books, New York, 1972