- Author: Dr. Anthony Fulford
What is subsoil?
There are several layers (also known as “horizons” to soil scientists) that can be found when we dig deeper and deeper down into the soil. We can imagine all the individual layers of a soil stacked one on top of the other like a layer cake, this is called the soil profile. The surface soil is the uppermost layer of the soil profile, and the one we are most familiar with, because this is where most of the action takes place. Soil mixing with tillage, compost and fertilizer application, irrigation, plant root growth, and animal activity (including microbes) are mainly concentrated within the soil's surface layer. Additionally, decomposition of plant and leaf litter occurs most rapidly in the surface soil, this eventually leads to the formation of new soil organic matter. In comparison, the subsurface soil, or subsoil, is composed of one or more soil layers that lie below the influence of surface soil activities. There is not a consistent depth at which every surface soil layer changes into the subsoil layer(s), rather the subsoil occurs at a different depth from place to place depending on numerous factors, including some of the factors mentioned previously. This is the reason why it is difficult to determine where the subsoil layer begins in the soil profile.
What does subsoil contain?
What does subsoil look like?
What is subsoil used for?
In general, the subsoil is a less suitable medium for plant growth compared to surface soil because of some of the factors mentioned previously. There are properties of subsoil however that make it suitable for other uses such as a source of “fill soil” for “cut-and-fill” construction operations, as a source of clay for building materials, and as an absorption layer for on-site wastewater disposal.
What can home gardeners do to keep their subsoil in great shape year after year?
What is the substratum layer of soil? Does that layer affect gardening at all, and if so how?
What is the bedrock layer? Does that layer affect gardening at all, and if so how?
Bedrock is the bottom layer of the soil profile layer cake. The bedrock layer consists of solid rock that has not yet been exposed to the chemical, physical, and biological processes of the surface soil and subsoil. In some places, bedrock is the foundation from which the overlying soil layers developed, while in other places, the bedrock layer may have become “buried” by windblown sand or sediment. Bedrock does not directly influence plant growth, but it can determine the type of clay minerals found in different layers of the soil profile.
Dr. Anthony Fulford is the Area Nutrient Management and Soil Quality Advisor for Stanislaus, Merced, and San Joaquin Counties./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
Why do some trees change color and drop their leaves before winter? And why are there different colors?
Leaves are colored by pigment molecules. Most leaves appear green because they contain an abundance of the pigment chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the site of photosynthesis where the sun's energy is converted into the carbohydrates that are plants' food source. During the cold winter months when there is less sunlight, it would take too much energy for some trees to keep their leaves healthy. So deciduous trees lose their leaves for the winter. Evergreen trees have a different strategy for dealing with winter's challenges (which is a topic for another time!).
Elevation, latitude and weather all affect the timing and intensity of fall colors. Higher elevations and northern latitudes produce earlier autumn colors in trees. In general, autumn weather with lots of sunny days, dry weather, and cold, frostless nights will produce the most vibrant palette of fall colors. Some trees that can produce vivid colors include maples, gingkos, aspen, birches, Japanese maples, liquidamber, cherry, redbud, Chinese pistache, and dogwood.
In the Central Valley we usually don't get the glorious colors like the Sierra Mountains or the east coast, but we do get some color which usually starts in early November. So, enjoy the autumn jewels since it occurs only for a brief period each fall!
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener since July 2020.