You ever wonder what’s just below the surface of soil? Some people call it dirt, but I call it soil. Soil is very important to me because it’s what makes everything in my garden grow. There’s so much complexity to soil, and that’s what I find fascinating. In fact, it’s its own little ecosystem, full of microbes and insects. The more we know about it, the better plants we can grow.
To understand soil, you have to look at it in layers, also called horizons. There are six recognized layers that go all the way down to the actual bedrock.
- O Horizon (humus) – This layer contains organic matter deposited on the surface and is usually made up of plant and animal residue. It blankets all of the horizons, protecting it from erosion and feeding the layers below.
- A Horizon (topsoil) – This is where the most biological activity occurs, housing earthworms, arthropods, nematodes, fungi, and microorganisms, among the minerals and decomposed organic matter. This layer is the primary source of nutrients for your plants, making it the most important to understand for your garden’s success.
- E Horizon (eluviation layer) – This layer is mostly made up of sand and silt and does not contain much clay or minerals.
- B Horizon (subsoil) – As water travels from the higher horizons, it carries with it clay and minerals that are deposited in this layer.
The final two layers, the C and R horizons, contain bedrock, and plant roots do not reach those layers.
Recognizing the composition of your soil will tell you about how certain plants will do in your garden. After testing, if you find that your soil is deficient of certain things, it can often be easily amended. I think using natural fertilizers, minerals and compost, can help boost the value of your soil.
Compost adds the living elements, like microorganisms and beneficial insects. Fertilizers can bring the mineral content up to where it needs to be to suit the plants that you’re growing.
I can tell you it’s worthwhile to dig a little deeper and get to know the little guys in your soil that are working so hard. Believe me, when you get your soil right, your garden and your plants will thank you for it.