Becky England Indian Trail Master Naturalist
As spring approaches many of us are planning gardens and flower beds if we have not already done so.With planning may come thoughts of fertilizers and soil amendment. In Ellis and Navarro Counties we are blessed with the rich soil of the blackland prairies that needs little if any amendment. Houston Black is a soil type found in a portion of our counties that has been deemed the “State Soil of Texas” due to its unique qualities found here in Texas.
The one thing that our soils do need is loosening for aeration to allow for root growth and infiltration of moisture. The addition of compost can help when dealing with vertisols, alfisols and mollisols, which are clays with varying degrees of parent material consisting of natric (sodic) or white clay material with shrink/swell potential. These soils that are laden with clays will benefit from organic matter and the hidden macrobiotic world that it adds. Before adding any fertilizers it is judicial to perform a soil analysis on the area you plan to amend. If the properties of the soil are out of balance, nutrients will not be available for plant material. We often think of the “big three”, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium but there are more than ten micronutrients that can determine the success of your garden. Here in the blackland prairie, one may not have to fertilize at all depending on your specific location and the soil you have to work with. Your local AgriLife Extension Office can provide you with all the information on soil testing.
Another good reason for testing one’s soil and keeping a good balance of nutrients is keeping a healthy variety of plants growing when and where they should be. When a soil is high in one nutrient it can be conducive to invasive plants that we do not desire and hostile to plant species we are trying to grow. Once invasive species are established, sometimes herbicides are used thus causing chain reactions with undesirable outcomes. Not only are plants affected by these chemicals but beneficial insects such as our pollinators, and desirable wildlife as well. So as we imagine our lawns and gardens taking shape this spring and summer, let’s give our soil a little consideration.
For more information about Master Naturalists, call the AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.