Problems with garden soils are normally the least visible – until they affect the growing plant. Soil problems in the garden can be associated with lawn problems (often) and general visible sickness symptoms on plants which are not otherwise associated with pests or diseases. Waterlogged soil is perhaps the most noticeable of soil problems.
There are many types of garden soil, and each of them have their own set of physical problems, such as light soils prone to drying out and heavy soils becoming waterlogged. Light and heavy are not the only soil types; there are many variations between.
Basic soil problems in the garden will include mineral deficiencies which show up as discolored or misshapen stems and leaves; Nutrient deficiency which will generally result in poor substandard crops; Soil compaction - often a major problem with lawns, and the harbouring of pests and diseases which generally live in the soil, but feed on plants - the roots in particular. Poor drainage and poor water retention.
Well Textured Soil | Soil/bedrock cross section
The Ph level of the soil is probably the main cause of annoyance, with plants looking sick or even dying. The ph level of a garden soil is a table that assesses the soils alkaline levels – or acidity.
Plants which do not like alkaline conditions are often planted in soils with a high ph (High levels of lime). Such plants will include the wide range of ericaceous plants (Heathers, Rhododendrons, Azaleas and a wide range of others). Other plants which need lime in the soil (or a higher ph level, will include the Brassica family of vegetables (and some ornamental plants) comprising cabbages, wallflowers, and several others.
The letters NPK stand out for us all to see on any plants food or fertilizer, yet are the least well understood aspect of soil management and resultant soil and plant health. Generally NPK levels sort themselves out admirably in a well managed soil. Just as well for the constituents that make up NPK are essential for good plant growth and health. Fertilisers and NPK
Soil compaction is a much bigger problem than is generally realised, particularly in certain areas and on certain soil types.
Nutritional deficiencies resulting from poor soil management and general lack of care and feeding. This is closely related to the overall structure of the garden soil. The physical structure of the soil, whether clay, sand or somewhere in between, is something that is not easy to change in the short or medium term, and cases many gardeners problems and headaches trying to alter their soil type. Far better to accept what you have and learn how to get the best out of it.
Overfeeding can also bring about problems - often resulting in death of plants and crops.
As inhospitable that garden soils might seem, they are a good place for many different garden pests and diseases to live and spend their entire life, or simply use it as a home base from where they can make forays into the garden often at night and unseen in order to feed or procreate. The vast majority of soil pests feed on the root system, or use the root system as an entry point from which to infect the whole plant. They are dealt with in the section of Plant Root Problems.
There are several plant and garden diseases, normally fungus diseases, that live in the soil, where they can readily find access into the plant by way of the root system, or underground parts of the plant. We classify them as root or plant diseases for they are not actually soil disorders or diseases. They simply live on the soil!
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