Pick up a handful of soil from your garden. I bet you are thinking, "this is ordinary, unexciting earth". Yet it is an example of nature's miracles, and one of her most complex products. Your accomplishment as a gardener will largely depend on its condition, so take the first bold step in gardening.... get to know your soil.

All soils are composed of four basic components, these are:

Water - Water is essential for support of both plant and soil life - it is also the carrier of nutrients. Water is absorbed into humus and absorbed on to the surface of particles. Water adheres tightly to clay, restricting both drainage and uptake by the roots.

Air - Air is crucial for the support of plant life and desirable for soil life - it is also necessary for the breakdown of organic matter to release nutrients. Movement of air is important for avoiding the build up of toxic gases. This movement takes place throughout the soil pores.

Mineral particles - The non-living skeleton of the soil comes from the decomposition of rocks by weathering. The parent rock usually (but not at all times) lies under the soil and both the fertility and size of the particles are governed by the sort of parent rock.

Organic matter - Fertile soils contain at least 5 per cent organic matter. This is found present as a mixture of living, dead and decomposed organisms, both animal and vegetable. True humus is the dark jelly-like substance which binds mineral particles into crumbs.

The physical quality of the resulting blend that we know as soil is described as its texture or structure, but these two terms donot mean the exact same thing.

Soil texture: refers to the proportions of the different sized mineral particles which are there. When course particles prevail, the soil is described as light. When the particles are minute, the soil is called heavy. The best soil lies between these two extremes. The course and minute particles need to be evenly balanced to provide the medium-texture soil referred to as loam. Soil scientists have recognised 17 or more types of mineral soil texture, but for the average gardener there is just 8 basic types, these can be put in to 3 groups. Light soil, medium soil and heavy soil.

Soil structure; refers to the way the mineral particles are joined all together, they may be grouped as clods, plates or crumbs. A crumb structure is excellent - it is what we call 'friable soil' with a 'good tilth'.

Your soil might be nothing like a crumbly loam. It may be a back-breaking clay or it could be sandy stuff which always needs feeding and watering. Don't despair, it is quite simple to change the structure of any soil. Organic matter will cement sand grains into crumbs. Digging, liming and organic matter achieve the same effect on clay particles.

The improvement might be spectacular, but you can not change the fundamental texture unless you add vast quantities of the deficient mineral particle. So your soil will remain basically clayey, sandy etc., which means that you should, wherever possible, choose plants that the catalogues recommend for your particular soil type.

An incredible amount of my time is spent in my garden, but as I am getting older and things are becoming harder to do. I have decided to use a firm called Gardener London.. So far they have given me all the help and advice that I have asked for. I still do a bit of pottering around my own garden.

Author's Bio: 

I have been heavily involved in the property business for over twenty years. My work ranges from gardening, electrics and diy. Gasically I can turn my hand to pretty much anything.