Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gardening

The ancient art of gardening, the raising of one’s own flowers, shrubs, fruits, and vegetables within a limited area, is enjoying a contemporary renaissance as millions of Americans discover the satisfactions inherent in working the soil. Almost everyone who has access to bit of ground raises a few flowers, and it is estimated that perhaps half of all American families maintain vegetable gardens. The houseplant business is booming, and plant nurseries and florists have enjoyed record sales.

Soil for gardening must contain the essential nutrients to feed growing plants, and it must have a structure capable of holding air and moisture without becoming waterlogged. Soil analysis reveals nutritional deficiencies that may be remedied through the use of fertilizers, which add the minerals necessary for plant growth. Analysis also indicates the pH, or acidity alkaline, a pH rating of 7 is neutral, neither acid nor alkaline. Most garden plant thrive best at a pH of 6 to 7, although certain plants, such as blueberries and rhododendrons, need a higher acid level. Overacidity, the more usual problem, can be decreased by adding ground limestone. Overalkaline soils, which may cause yellowing in plants, can be treated by adding sulfur or gypsum.

In General soil structure is classified as sandy, clay, or loam, although most garden soils are mixtures of the three in varying proportions. A sandy soil is very loose and will not hold water. A clay soil is dense and heavy, sticky when wet, and almost brick hard when dry. Loam is a quantity of Humus, or decayed organic material, which loosens and aerates clay soil and binds sandy soil particles together. In addition, humus supplies nutrients. Soil structure can be improved by digging in compost, manure, peat moss, and other organic matter.

A good soil can be kept in good condition, year after year, by digging in decaying organic materials and by adding the recommended amounts of fertilizers, usually a compound commercial mixture sold at garden centers. Fertilizers should be applied only as recommended and never in excess.

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