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Are you overlooking this major attribute in plant problems?

If you, like me, are struggling to make plants grow in some areas of your garden, it might be time to look at a rather obvious culprit: the soil. Up to 80% of problems with plants may be attributed to soil conditions, therefore it makes sense to get to know your soil’s texture, pH and ability to hold water.

Fortunately, all these factors can be determined by any gardener at no or very little cost. First to test should be soil texture. If you have a larger garden, take several samples from different parts of the garden, don’t simply assume that it will be the same throughout.

5 simple steps to test soil texture
Testing soil texture is incredibly easy and is done with readily available household items. It takes about two days (but with very little effort by you).
You will need the following for every sample of soil you would like to test:

• a large glass jar with a lid, such as a mason jar.
• A soil sample, dug out from the root zone, in other words not the very top layer of soil.
• a tablespoon of dishwashing detergent.
• Enough water to fill the jar ¾.
• a measuring tape

1. Remove all organic material and rocks from your sample(s) and spread out to dry for a day.

2. Put the soil sample, detergent and water in the jar, close tightly and shake for three minutes. Leave the jar on a level surface. This allows the different particles to settle in a straight line.

3. After 1 minute, measure the height of the sand layer that has formed.
After 2 hours, measure the silt layer.
After 1 day, measure the clay layer on top if it has settled. It might take more than a day to settle
Measure the total height of the soil in the bottle.

Different soil types

Measure different soil layers

4. Calculate the percentage of each layer:
Soil layer/total x 100:
Silt layer/total x 100:
Clay layer/total x 100:

5. Use this soil texture calculator to determine what kind of soil you have.

Perks of knowing your soil texture
Soil texture plays a major role in the way plants will grow in your garden, therefore identifying and understanding the soil type in your garden will give you a huge advantage. You will be able to water and fertilize more efficiently, and help new plants establish easier by adjusting planting time and improving soil texture where necessary. All in all, your garden management will be more efficient, and who could say no to that?

Image: Copyright The Ladybird Garden, Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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Discovering mushrooms and memories in the garden

 

The past few weeks, we’ve had record rainfall all across the northern part of South Africa.

Apart from the lawn and weeds taking over, our garden was transformed into a fairytale landscape by mushrooms of all shapes and sizes popping up everywhere.

Hidden underneath the canopy of plants that have shot up due to all the rains, the delicate beauties awaited discovery. Some were more obvious, proudly displaying their colours on benches and stumps or pushing through the edge of the lawn.

Large parts of our garden have undisturbed piles of leaves, branches and other debris, since I don’t believe in ‘tidying up’ a garden too much. I believe that this provides a habitat for all the necessary critters that help create a real living garden.

The mushrooms love this. They help break down the leaf matter in a dazzling display of variety, from bright yellow sulphur caps to the most delicate mushrooms you can imagine. Like tiny hairs on a piece of wood, their miniature caps are only visible if you look very closely, displaying beautiful ridges and texture.

My parents came over and discovering these beauties with my mother opens up a whole different level of appreciation. She  loves mushrooms and tries to identify as many as she can. The variety in my garden delighted her, and I found myself trotting to her, as excited as a little kid, with every new discovery I made.

We studied the organization of gills , wondered at the fragile tutu-like rings around stems and sniffed at the larger ones like pedigree truffle-pigs.

We had a lovely time, the discovery of the different species lightening the dreary task of weeding.

The Ladybird Garden

A garden is about so much more than just the flowers and shrubs. Sometimes you have to look a bit harder to find the beauty, and sometimes the beauty lies in the experience you share with someone in your garden.

May you be building memories in your garden!

Privacy in the Garden: 4 ways to keep out nosy neighbours

All gardeners need a bit of privacy in their garden. Privacy screens might be used to hide an unsightly but necessary corner such as a compost heap or shed, or from nosy neighbours and their dogs (as in our case). Garden screens can also be used to define different areas in the garden, or for increased security if used on the perimeter of the property. An added bonus is that such a screen can filter out noise, and it need not be an ugly, functional structure. There are so many beautiful options out there that your garden screen can become an integral part of your garden’s architecture. Continue reading

Hydrangea: The best Christmas shrub

Here in South Africa, gardens are overflowing with hydrangea, their luscious heads lolling and adding dashes of blue, pink and Christmas cheer. In Afrikaans we call them “krismisrose”- Christmas roses.  Just like Christmas, they are associated with abundance – pay them a little attention, and your hydrangea will reward you over and over. Continue reading