What is the Best Type of Soil to Grow Plants?

You might have often wondered how you can prepare your soil correctly for growing plants. Soil can be classified by a large number of parameters. Scientists from across the world have ascribed a number of factors to soil. Depending on these factors, soil at any place could be categorized as either heavy or light, consisting principally of sand, clay or loam and finally either good or bad for growing plants. In addition to the above parameters, there are certain other factors that are essential in determining the right kind of soil to raise certain types of plants. Some of these factors include organic content, color, compaction, moisture, pH level, temperature, structure and texture. However, the most important factors among the ones mentioned are organic content, pH level and texture. These essential factors could be described as follows:

  1. Soil pH level: Either you purchase a universal indicator or buy a pH paper to determine the pH level of your soil. Follow the instructions mentioned on the package and match the soil color with the indicator of the color. Based on the type of plants you want to raise, you can manipulate the pH of the soil to be either alkaline or acidic. A pH measure of more than 8.5 will be too alkaline for the growth of your plants. Similarly, a pH level of less than 3.5 might prove too acidic for your plants. While doing so, you need to keep in consideration that the various layers of the soil would have different pH measures.
  2. Presence of organic content in your soil: Contemporary gardeners talk about organic content all the time. The fact that so much importance is ascribed to organic matter is due to the presence of many nutrients in the organic matter. The addition of organic content makes the soil far more fertile for the growth of plants. If possible, add organic material such as vegetable remains and bone meal to your compost. However, ensure that you do not dump meat by-products as that would significantly encourage bugs and varmints to infect your soil.
  3. The types of soil: Soil across the world is broadly classified into three major types – loam, sandy and clay. You could easily find out the type of soil you have by indulging in a few very easy tests. The first suggested step is known as the squeeze test. Pick up a one-inch-long sample of soil that is moist in your palm and squeeze the sample. Subsequently, you rub the soil sample between your fingers. Just in case, it seems loose and gritty, then you might be having sandy soil. Sandy soil doesn’t form a ball and separates easily. With loamy sand, you can form a ball. However, the ball will crumble with ease and the soil is also a little gritty. On the third instance, the soil might be very sleek and you can form a ball with extreme ease. This would show that the soil is composed of clay.

    could grow Helianthemum in alkaline and neutral soil, but the plan can’t be grwn The quintessential question still persists. Which soil is the best for plant growth? The answer is not that obvious and simple. To put it in the simplest way possible, you need to modify your soil depending on the necessity of the concerned plant. Before mending your soil, be sure about the nature of the plant that you are growing. For example, a Japanese maple tree could be grown in acidic and neutral soil, but the tree can’t be raised in alkaline soil. Similarly, you could grow Helianthemum in alkaline and neutral soil, but the plant can’t be grown in acidic soil.

Can Soil Quality Affect the Nutritional Value of Food

Healthy soil is the basis for healthy food production. And we are not the only ones saying it. The Food and Agricultural Foundation also advocates it. In fact, the United Nations Organization declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils.

Soil is a living ecosystem so the next time you dismiss soil as clod, hold that thought for a minute. Did you know that a teaspoon of productive soil contains between 100 million and 1 billion microorganisms? The minerals and microorganisms in soil have a direct relationship with the quality of the food produced. Nutritious and wholesome food can be grown only when the soil is in good health.

Why do we need to conserve soil nutrition?

Unfortunately, modern agricultural practices like mono-cropping, addition of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides and the need to farm continuously to feed our growing population, has put a tremendous strain on soil, leading to a decrease in soil fertility. We shudder to think, if this is happening now, how will our future generations fulfill their needs?

It is estimated that by 2050, the population of the world will increase to 9 billion. At that time, there will be a terrible competition for water and land. Climate changes will also leave an impact. Since the extent of arable land is not going to increase (unless we cut down our forests), our only hope is to improve the productive capacity of the soil already under cultivation. One way to do this, is by improving the quality of the soil.

Where is the proof that soil nutrition has decreased?

Decades ago, scientists found that plants need only three elements to grow- potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen. At that time, it was good news because it meant the cost of production could be reduced (by switching from traditional farming practices to scientific practices). But while scientists were successful in estimating what plants need, they ignored what humans need to grow. The result? Food grown with NPK looks good on the outside but it is sorely lacking in nutrients.

Studies have also proved that the food grown today is less nutritious as compared to the food grown many decades ago. A University of Texas at Austin study (published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition in December 2004) examined the data for 43 varieties of fruits and vegetables between 1950-1999. The researchers found that there was a consistent decline in vitamins and minerals in these fruits and vegetables over the years. Another study found we need to eat eight oranges to get the same amount of Vitamin C our grandparents would have got from one orange.

Degraded soil compounds with other issues to reduce food nutrition

If this was not enough, food quality is also affected when we pick the crops too early or process it (freezing, drying). One study found that when Kale was stored in a freezer at 1 degree for 6 weeks, the amount of Vitamin C in it reduced by over 6 times, against freshly picked Kale. It is also true that food has to travel great distances before it is consumed. To make the food last that long, the farmers treat the food with additives like sulfur dioxide. These additives not only reduce the nutritional content of the food, they also cause respiratory problems like asthma.

This only reinforces the point that soil quality influences the quality of food produced from that soil. But don’t worry. You have a choice now- organic food grown in nutrient rich soil. It is your best bet and hedge against nutrient deficient food.

Organic Food with a Difference

When you hear about ‘organically grown’ food, what is the first thought that comes into your head? Chemical-free food? Yes, organically grown food means chemical free food but it doesn’t stop at that. Not only is organic food grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, but also it is neither genetically modified nor ionized.

So genetically modified corn grown organically is not organic food. Similarly, organically grown meat is meat produced without injecting or feeding the animals growth hormones and antibiotics.

Organic food business expands in the U.S

Organic food is big business in the U.S. According to Statista.com, in spring 2015, more than 47 million people procured organic food and the number is only increasing (a little more than 39 million people bought organic food in spring 2011). One Roper survey found that at least 63 percent of U.S citizens have bought organic food.

While this is good news for people’s health (considering how synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are blamed for an increasing number of diseases and health problems including birth defects and mental problems in children, respiratory and vascular problems), is the organic food you eat, really improving your health? Does it give you better nutrition? Probably not.

While organic food producers are careful to avoid using any synthetic applicants or grow genetically contaminated produce, they are not willing to spend more to make the food better, nutrition wise. So this ‘organic food’ is actually the same as conventional food when it comes to nutrition, if not worse.

Organic food that is actually better in nutrition than other foods

That is why the organic produce we grow is different. It is not only free from chemical fertilizers and other harmful applicants, it has better nutrition too. We do two things that make our vegetables and fruits better. First, we use high quality soil. Second, we use special farming techniques that deliver higher nutritional value. Finally, we don’t mass produce like other organic farmers. We grow only in small amount so we can ensure that our organic food is actually what we promise it is – food high in nutritional value and free from chemicals and genetic contamination.

What does conventional farming do to the soil?

Did you know that monoculture and addition of chemicals to soil, compounded with aggressive tilling removes minerals and essential trace elements from soil? The result, the food we eat today has less nutrients than the food we used to eat some years back. This means, the conventionally grown carrot you ate for dinner yesterday night has 10 to 25 percent less nutritional content than the carrot your grandfather or mother would have eaten 25 years back.

This is in part responsible for the obesity epidemic and other health problems plaguing the U.S and much of the developed world today (when you don’t get enough nutrients from your food, you tend to overeat to compensate).

What do we do that is different?

We have adopted holistic farming techniques (composting, biodynamic farming and other techniques) that conserve the fertility and health of the soil. Soil that is thus nurtured can give a lot more than other types of soils. Our farming techniques are actually better for the soil and nutrients don’t get depleted as quickly too.

For instance, we grow food in organic soil that we blend ourselves. We use only organic heirloom seeds so that there is no genetic contamination. We use water from our well to water the plants. We also promote beneficial bugs to keep the bad bugs in control. You just have to tell us what you want to grow and we will grow it for you. While it grows, we will keep you informed about the progress. And when it is ready for harvest, we pick it and deliver it to your door that morning. We promise, once you see the benefits of our food, you won’t be ready to compromise with any other food. Sounds interesting? Contact us, so that we can tell you more about our ‘organic food’.