Knowing More about Soil Improving Crops Improving Your Soil Naturally
One of the most difficult problems facing the experienced or amateur gardener whether he is a vegetable grower, or a future market gardener is to maintain the organic matter content of the soil. Nearly most vegetables and crops are grown on lands, that are intensively cropped. That means one or more cultivated crops are grown on the land each year, and the crop residues are not sufficient to replace the organic matter lost manually.
In ancient times, it was the norm of a farmer to make sure that the land was fertilized with plenty of organic material and manure in order to provide nutrition to the soil, which had been depleted through a previous harvest. This was naturally the traditional method which was followed all down the ages, all over the world. People knew that the land gave enough of itself in order to produce your crops for you. But the land had to be fed. And this feeding was done with organic fertilizer, water, and other natural resources.
At that time, nobody knew that there were plenty of helpful microorganisms present in the land, which were helping in the decomposition of the organic material in order to produce nutrients for the soil. The loss of organic matter was due to the action of these particular microorganisms which were decomposing it ultimately to produce carbon dioxide.
The rate of the loss depended on the soil type, muster, temperature, and the type of the crop grown on that particular land. The microorganisms needed both water, therefore their growth, and continued happy action. The rate of the decomposition was slow in the dry soil.
Every farmer worth his salt knew that the land could never be kept dry, because that would prevent it from giving up of its bounty. In the 21st century, we know that the microorganisms will start their work only when the soil is wet. On the other hand, if the soil is very wet, the decomposition is again going to slow down, owing to the lack of air.
Importance of Organic Matter
At school, all of us learned that the earth consists of natural organic matter, in the form of humus, which helped keep it fertile. Apart from that, it also needed a helping hand in the shape of organic manure, and fertilizers, provided to it by man.
Improving Soil Structure
This organic matter is important as a source of plant nutrients and because of its effect on certain properties of the soil. It is colloidal in nature. That is why it is an important part of the base exchange complex of the soil.In a light or sandy soil, the contribution of the organic matter to the exchange capacity is going to be important. That is why you will need to increase the organic matter content. This is going to increase the amount of nutrients which can be held in the soil, especially in a form which resists leaching due to external factors.
In a light and sandy soil, it is also going to increase the water holding capacity of the soil. However, it does not have a great effect on the soil structure because these soils already have a low clay content.
On the other hand, if the soil in your garden or in your farm with a high clay content, organic matter is not going to play such an important role in the exchange capacity. However, it is going to have an important function in developing a really good soil structure.
Soil Improving Crops
Soil improving crops are those which are grown solely for the purpose of improving conditions of the soil for the crop which is going to follow. There are other gardening terms, which are being used for such crops. These include “green manure crops” and “cover crops”.
Green manure crops are those crops that are grown especially for the improvement of the soil. These are turned under while they are still growing and green. They usually are grown during the same season of the year as when you are growing your vegetable crops.
Proper Selection of Soil Improving Crops
Rye is going to provide you with excellent green manure.
When you are selecting soil improving crops, the following points need to be considered –
The crops should be able to adapt themselves to the native climate and soil. The quantity of vegetable matter produced in the time available should be enough to be able to enrich the soil. The root growth character has to be taken into account. It should also be of ease to incorporate the plant material with the soil. The time which of the crop is to be planted and whether the crop is to be turned under while green or as dead material is the last factor which is taken into consideration.
When to Turn the Soil Improving Crops
So now that you have grown your soil improving crop, you are now interested to find out the best time with you can turn the soil improving crops under the ground. This is going to depend on the time the succeeding crop is to be planted. Along with that, you are also going to take the kind of soil improving crop into account, the third factor is the season of the year when the crop has been grown, and the fourth factor is the condition of the soil and the climatic conditions of the atmosphere at that time.
When the soil improving crop is to be followed by only vegetables, it must be turned in the in the fall, winter, or early spring. If you are planning a late crop to follow the soil improving crop, the turning under can be delayed as long as it is feasible in order to produce a large quantity of humus farming material.
However, you need to remember that the organisms which are causing the breaking down of the plant and the decomposition of the material consume nitrates and therefore they are going to interfere with the growth of the vegetable crop.
This book has given you plenty of information on how you can use soil improving crops, like it has been done for millenniums. Apart from that, here is one tip. When any of the legumes are to be grown on land that has not grown the same crop, or any other crop that has the same bacteria in the nodules on the roots, the seed, or the soil has to be inoculated with the appropriate bacteria. This material for inoculating the seed can be purchased from commercial forms that make a specialty of legume inoculation are from reputed and experienced seed dealers.
Also, there is a belief among many farmers, even today that turning under a large quantity of green material will increase the acidity of a soil. In fact, this was told to me by a supposedly experienced professor of agriculture, and I can tell you that there is absolutely no basis for this particular myth. Even though it is true that on decomposition of material of this kind, organic acids are set free the soil acidity is not going to be increased or if it is, the condition is temporary .Turning under humus forming material generally does not increase the lime requirement of the soil.
Also remember that plant material is going to decompose most rapidly when the soil is warm and was applied with moisture. If the soil is dry and the soil improving crop is turned under, there is going to be little or no decomposition until the time when moisture is supplied by rain or through irrigation. Imagine the bacteria waiting for a little bit of water to drink before they start eating their meal. If they do not get the water, they are going to keep hibernating. The moment you give them their drink, they are going to wake up, shake themselves off, and pay notice to the green food around them which needs to be eaten and decomposed as quickly as possible.
In regions, where summer droughts are prevalent, especially in the California of today, it is best to turn under the soil improving crop while the soil is still moist unless you can provide plenty of irrigation.
So now that you know all about green manure and soil improving crops, take full advantage of all the bounty provided to you by nature, and start growing green manure today to clean up that land.
Live Long and Prosper!