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Master Your Soil
Posted on : January 9, 2019

Growing Successfully in Clay Soils

Most people don’t think about roots of plants because roots are “out of sight, out of mind.”  To have healthy roots you must have healthy soil for them to grow.  A healthy soil is friable and has air spaces or pores between the soil particles.

Why is the space between the soil particles important?

1) Roots grow in air spaces

2) Water travels through the air spaces and roots capture the water

3) Respiration, gaseous exchanges take place in the air spaces

When pore space shrinks, there is less air and moisture in the soil, a condition that negatively influences seed germination, seedling emergence, and root growth, such as organic matter breaking down or too much water in the soil.

Use every time you put plants in the ground!

PERMANENT SOIL AMENDMENT: Expanded Shale is a lightweight aggregate that is an ideal growing media for hydroponic or aquaponic systems. The shale is mined, crushed and fired under high temperatures in a rotary kiln, producing a clean, inert, porous, and light material.

Tree Roots Suffocating

Root Pruning Before Planting

Always trim the roots prior to planting; this stops the circular motion of growth, let’s the plant know it is free to put out new roots and become established in the new soil home. Dig your hole twice as wide and as deep take soil out.  Dig down in bottom of hole and loosen soil but leave, add 1/3 bag of shale, mix together.  Use the last 2/3 of shale and mix with soil taken out of hole.  Use a 1# coffee can to measure AG organic blend fertilizer and put in bottom of planting hole, mix up. Add another pound when planting the tree and mix with soil and shale.  This fertilizer brings worms and microbes to the party!   DO NOT USE potting soil as it is an artificial media and will not support the soil microbes plus it creates a spongy soil that kills roots.

Planting A Tree

Types of Mulches

Mulch is used to keep moisture in soil, cool roots in summer, and keep weed seeds from germinating.  Mulch quality has changed to include dyed mulches which have no nutrient benefit for plants or soil. You can use pine needles as mulch and top dress your flower beds every year with quality compost.  This keeps the root zone of the plant vigorous which keeps the plant vigorous.  Add your organic fertilizer before adding soil.  Be careful not to cover the stem base of the plants as this will cause stress and deterioration of the plant.

Watering Your Plants: We are overwaterers/nurturers

Best way to tell is by knowing whether you water every day or not at all.  In containers you check the weight of the pot.  When plants get too dry in containers you can soak them for 1-2 hours or water a dozen times to get them turgid again.  The soil needs to completely dry out in between watering and creates larger/more air spaces for the respiration/gaseous exchanges to occur. When you water- water WELL and let dry out.  GO FORTH AND GARDEN!!!!!!!!!

Written by Linda Gay

Linda received her Associates Degree in Horticulture from Trident Technical College in Charleston, SC. She moved to Houston the summer of 1979 and worked in the commercial green industry until 1985. October 1985 Linda stared at Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens and retired in May 2011. She was the director for 11 years. Linda is first and foremost a gardener, constantly manipulating soils and putting new plants in the garden, always learning and growing. She has killed plants every which way you can and this experience has made me a plant expert. After 6 months of retirement Linda was very fortuitous and landed in the coolest gardener’s paradise, The Arbor Gate in Tomball, Texas.