Fertile Loam

Gardening with Fertile Loam

            Gardeners can attest to the fact that by using fertile loam in your garden or landscape you can expect the highest results from the plants that are grown.  In some areas of the country it occurs naturally, while in others gardeners must rely on purchasing this rich soil.

            Loam is a mixture of sand and clay that often also contains silt, which is simply a grade of soil between sand and clay.  When purchasing the soil, it may be identified through classifications:  sandy loam, clay loam and loam.  They are classified because of their concentration of elements, for example, sandy loam contains more sand than clay while clay loam has more clay particles than sand.  The reason for this difference in concentration is because of the diversity of plant life and their requirements for best growing conditions.  Sandy loam drains quickly, with many pockets within that hold oxygen.  Fruit trees, herbs and many vegetable plants thrive in this type of soil as the root systems can easily branch out.  Sandy loams have high nutrient levels; essential for growth of these types of plants.  In contrast, clay loams hold water well and stay compact; a condition that is ideal for certain berry bushes and other plants.

            Loam is considered as the perfect balance for most home gardens.  It combines an ideal balance of sand and clay particles; offering great growth potential for virtually all garden plants.  When decayed organic material is added to this medium, a fertile loam is the result.  Since all plants need the nutrients and minerals provided with this combination, gardeners will realize the greatest vegetable and fruit yields with this balance.  The Midwestern section of the United States is naturally gifted with loam, and agriculture accounts for a large percentage of the area’s industry because of the rich soil.

            A yard that has a natural loam consistency will require additional fertilization over time, especially in the case of sandy loam.  Fast drainage through the loose particles of the sandy loam also means that nutrients normally found in the soil will be washed away more quickly.  Also, the plant roots have a much easier time absorbing the nutrients, robbing them of future stores.  In order to retain fertile loam, the landowner must renew these vital minerals by adding a fertilizer.  This fertilizer can be obtained through purchasing a commercial brand at a local garden store or nursery or by composting through natural means.

            Composting is an eventual process, and must be started well before the product is needed.  It can be started by adding all of the household’s organic waste and newspapers and cardboard to a pile, mixing in soil and manure and then let nature take its course.  Heat is needed to break down the decaying material at the fastest rate, so building the pile in a sunny location will make for faster composting.  Helping it along by chopping all ingredients to their smallest size possible and continually turning it over will also be a great benefit.  The process can take as little as 3 months or as long as 12 months, depending on all of the variables involved.  The compost is ready for use when it has a dark color, crumbles easily in the hand, and no single component is identifiable.

            To achieve a fertile loam in the garden, add a layer of compost over the soil and begin turning it into the soil.  Once mixed in with the loam, the compost will immediately begin to impart its nutrients into the soil and directly to the plants therein.

            Gardening is a satisfying activity, and will be even more so when a greater yield on the vegetables, herbs and fruits are realized by using a fertile loam in the garden.