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Unlocking the Secrets of Sand, clay and Silt Soils


Soil is the natural medium of the earth for plants to grow in. It is made up of organic and inorganic particles which bond together in various ways and create topsoil, subsoil and parent rock. The most valuable profile is the topsoil as it contains the most oxygen, moisture, minerals, organic matter and mirco organisms. The depth of the top soil varies and in Australia it is our most precious resource as our topsoil is old and thin.

The most important component of all soils is oxygen as it allows the plants roots to respire (absorb oxygen). The next important component is moisture. There needs to be good pore space (the gap between the soil particles) to allow the moisture, oxygen and micro-organisms to move through.

There are 3 main soil types sand, clay and silt and their classification depends on their particle size. Sand has large particles, good pore space but rarely sticks together, clay has very small particles that do stick together but has poor pore space and silt is a mixture of whatever has been washed down during a flood and is a mixture of organic matter, sand and clay. Each type of soil has good and bad properties.

A sandy soil drains freely, nutrients are easily leached out (washed through the soil), has large pore spaces (therefore a high oxygen content) and is easy to work. Generally sandy soils don't expand or contract.

A clay soil holds large amounts of water, retains nutrients, has small pore spaces (low oxygen) and is difficult to work. Clay soils tend to contract when they are dry and expand when they are wet The shrinking of clay soils during dry weather is what causes cracks to appear in the walls of our houses.

Silt is a mixture of medium size particles and has properties that are in between sand and clay. Silty soils are in areas where rivers floods eg. flood plains. It is easy to work, sustains good conditions for root growth, has good water holding capacity, good nutrient exchange capability and many pore spaces for oxygen. A GOOD soil. But not always. Some silts form crusts, reducing water infiltration, some set like concrete, have fine particles and easily blown away.

Loam is a mixture of sand, clay and usually contains some organic matter. Depending on its ratio of sand and clay it can be a fantastic soil or rotten one. Good loam can be good for root growth, have good water holding capacity, good nutrient exchange capability and large pore spaces for oxygen. But it depends on what the proportion of sand, clay and organic matter that is used. Some cheap loams have too much sand in them while others have too much clay in them.

Also be careful of the cheapest soil because they usually don't drain well, don't have much organic matter in them and often are contaminated with weed seeds. It is recommended only to buy soil if you absolutely must as often 'bought in' soil does not mix well with your original soil causing all sorts of drainage problems. It is better improve the soil you have with animal manures and compost.

All soils contain different amounts of minerals and this is known as soil texture. It can be describe as the feel of the soil. Sand feels very gritty (large particles) and clay has very small particles and feels silky and smooth. Soil structure is the size of the particles, the amount of organic matter, the chemical composition and the way the particles are grouped together.

The best method to test for soil structure is to obtain some soil, add water and see if it will roll into a ribbon in the palm of your hand. If it won't roll, then you have sand, if it rolls a bit then breaks - it has more sand than clay. If it rolls and stays together, then there is more clay than sand. The structure and texture influence the soil's performance and therefore what you can grow in your garden.

Each soil type has good and bad properties and the best way to improve your soil structure is to add compost and animal manures. Compost is like the cement of buildings; as it helps combine the sandy soil particles together and improve water holding capacity and in clay soils it helps separate soil particles and improve drainage. Gypsum will also improve the drainage capacity of clay by repelling the soil particles apart. It needs to be added about once a year.

Some soils can be become water resistant ie. the water runs over the top of the soil and does not soak in. This is because the soil particles get a waxy coating around them and repel the water. The best method to fix this problem is to add compost, animal manures and every now again lightly till the soil with a hoe to break up the crust that has formed.

By understanding your soils texture and structure, you will be able to manage the challenges that pop up. Improving your soil is a life times occupation, but well worth the effort as a good quality soil not only smells lovely but feels delectable. And as a bonus you will have very healthy plants.

In the past when you thought of a pallet you thought of bulk shipping and warehouses that would be responsible for moving product from one location to another. Most people didn't own their own pallets, and if they did it was because of the business that they owned. Today, pallets are much more commonplace and you may find that they are not just for shipping anymore.

Of course, if you look Weed Delivery Australia in any shipping truck or in the back of any retail store, you are likely to see pallets. They continue to be a great way to move product in bulk, because the forklifts can easily pick up a pallet of product and move it from one place to another, putting it on trucks and taking it off and dispersing it as needed. Pallets ensure that all of the product can be moved together with ease. This is why you will generally see pallets in trucks and in the backs of retail stores where they will be used later to move more product back and forth from one location to another.

Today pallets are used for a wide variety of things, and shipping is not something that most people will ever do with a pallet on their own. Many are using second hand pallets, those that have already been used for shipping purposes, to build different furnishings. In many cases, the pallets can be turned into outdoor furniture as the wood slats make a great foundation for a lot of different informal furniture.

Pallets are not just used to make outdoor furniture; some people are even making indoor furniture with it. Side tables, platform beds and even coffee tables are being made from pallets. When coupled with other pallets or modified just a bit and then stained or painted, pallets are no longer something simple and unattractive; instead they can be simple yet beautiful furniture for the indoors or outdoors.

Furniture is not where unconventional use for pallets stops. Many people are people using pallets for gardens. Instead of having to weed a garden and space all of the plants apart just so, the pallets are used as freestanding gardens. The idea is to fill the empty spaces with soil and then plant in those areas The slats keep the plants spaced just so, and it's nice because there is not nearly as much weeding or overcrowding to worry about. And even better, when the harvest season is over, there is no need to tear up large portions of the garden and work really hard to do so, rather, one can just pick up the entire pallet and throw it away. Or, they can clean out just the bit of soil that is in the spaces and store the pallets for the next year.

As you can see, there are more to pallets than meets the eye. In the internet inspired and Pinterest driven world we live in today, there is no limit as to what you can do with pallets creatively. IF you do need pallets for shipping purposes, you'll find that they are easier to get a hold of than ever before as you can buy brand new ones that are very well made for fairly cheap or you can even buy them used but still in great condition.