- 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: Ed Perry
- Editor: Anne Schellman
To have your soil analyzed, contact a commercial testing laboratory. For a list of soil laboratories located in Stanislaus, Merced, Fresno, and Merced Counties, visit https://cemerced.ucanr.edu/ClimateSmartAg/HSP/SoilTest/Soil_Testing_Laboratories_in_Fresno_Madera_Merced_and_Stanislaus_Counties/
For vegetable gardens, the application of a fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorus is usually all your soil will need to get your vegetables off to a strong start. Other nutrients like zinc or iron are sometimes deficient or unavailable in certain soils, but they are usually not applied unless plant deficiency symptoms appear.
Diagnosing a Plant Problem
Besides moisture, oxygen is also required in the soil for good root growth. Poorly drained soils often have little oxygen in them because excess water fills all the spaces between the soil particles. My advice to gardeners is to correct drainage problems first, then worry about fertilizers. Often problems with sick and dying plants are caused by overwatering or a lack of good soil drainage than by nutrient deficiencies.
If you have an unhealthy plant, gently dig near the root system and check soil moisture and drainage. Since plant roots need oxygen, roots may suffocate if excess water does not drain quickly. Unfavorable climatic conditions, including temperature extremes and drying winds can also affect plant growth, as well as insect pests and diseases. For small plants, pull up a plant or two and check to see if the roots are healthy.
The best way to keep soil healthy, especially in vegetable gardens is to add compost annually to improve soil health. For perennial crops like fruit trees, annual applications of fruit tree fertilizer in spring can be beneficial.
The UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardeners Can Help!
If you need help diagnosing a plant problem, take a plant sample to the UCCE office located at 3800 Cornucopia Way Ste A in Modesto. Master Gardeners are available on Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon in person or by phone (209) 525-6802. You can drop off a sample anytime during business hours or fill out an online survey and attach photos using this link http://ucanr.edu/ask/ucmgstanislaus A Master Gardener will get back to you within 5 days of your request.
If you live in another county in California, you can find your local Master Gardener program by using this link https://mg.ucanr.edu/FindUs/
Ed Perry is the emeritus Environmental Horticultural Advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in Stanislaus County where he worked for over 30 years./h4>/h4>/h4>
- Author: Terry Pellegrini
Planning your garden now, I feel, will save you headaches and money, come spring. By taking the time to understand how much space you have (or don't have), whether or not you wish to plant directly in ground or containers, or a combination thereof, and what types of plants grow best in your area, you'll only purchase what you need. In addition, you can decide whether or not you wish to devote the time to starting your seeds indoors or in a greenhouse, plant the seeds directly in the garden beds, or if transplants are the way you wish to go.
If you are thinking of planting spring veggies, take under consideration what you and your family will actually eat. If the kids detest string beans, then planting a huge area full of them is probably not a good use of the space, your time, or money. However, if zucchini is something you eat frequently, then two mounds may serve you better than one.
Now is also a good time to get control of any weeds in your proposed planting areas. Removing any weeds now, before the weather gets warmer and they decide to seed, means less work for you come spring and summer. I like to get down, move the soil with a trowel, and pull out any stray roots or seeds that I see. You may even find grubs and larvae of Hoplia beetles that you can remove, saving your precious roses and flowers this spring.
Many of us reuse our favorite pots and containers year after year. As such, these pots will need some TLC and prep as well. All the old soil will need to be removed and the pot cleaned with a solution of one-part bleach to nine parts water. Submerge in solution and soak for at least 10 minutes. This sterilizes them, removing any insects or diseases from the previous plant in the pot.
Planning and prepping your garden now for your spring planting will give you that head start to a successful, satisfying, and fun gardening adventure. So, get out your seed catalogs, notebook, and take a walk in your yard or garden space, and imagine all the possibilities. Happy Gardening!
- Author: Rho Yare
And then, one day cities began reading those water meters and charging the nice, water loving citizens by the units of water used each month. You could almost tell the day the bills arrived. Neighbors discussed them at the mailbox with anger, frustration, even fear. “How can I afford this every month?” Or “How can I reduce my monthly bill?” And that was the birth (or at least the beginning) of serious discussions about how to be “water wise” or how to conserve water to lower the units of water consumption that consequently will lower the monthly bill.
During this last drought, many people just stopped watering their lawn. This helped reduce their water bill but does little else. In many cases it killed street trees as well.
Not watering grass in our climate guarantees that the grass will die. In its place, however will be weeds. Weeds can live and multiply in harsh, waterless conditions. And all those weeds are spreading seeds that land in your neighbor's lawns. And eventually even the weeds die from normal life cycle or lack of water. Then the wind blows the precious topsoil from your yard. This topsoil mixes with the other air in our valley and adds to air pollution.
What if I want to keep my lawn?
There are a few things you can do if you do not want to give up your lawn completely. Think about reducing the amount of lawn in your yard, which can help you save water and money. Having a beautiful yard without green grass does not mean just rocks, cactus, or artificial turf. Begin by removing a small section of the grass. Check with the Stanislaus Master Gardeners and local nurseries for plant suggestions to replace that green grass with other green, or gray, or yellow plants. Think beyond bark, boulders, and bare ground. The possibilities are endless. This time of the year is a perfect time to begin making plans for that winter yard renovation!
What are some easy tips to save water?
Now, if you are not ready to commit to a grassless or partially grassless yard there are some changes that can help in reducing water consumption. First, examine your current watering system. If you have a sprinkler system, do not assume that it is working properly. Checking weekly during the warm weather is a must, especially after the lawn is mowed and in the daylight. Is everything working properly, sprinklers putting water on the lawn not the sidewalk or street? Are the sprinklers clogged, broken, or even missing? If you have an automatic timer, check the timer, and remember to decrease time and days as the daylight time shortens and weather cools, and turn the sprinklers off when the rains begin. Be an agent of change for the better! Making a few changes now can make a difference in your water bill, landscape, and our world because we are all in it together.
Join Rho Yare on Zoom for an evening of tips on how to reduce your water bill, yard work, pesticide use, all while having a gorgeous yard on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. Sign up at http://ucanr.edu/sustainable/2020 to receive your link.
- Author: Anne E Schellman
Summer and Fall Events, 2019
Ready to learn about local pollinators and how to welcome them to your garden? Take our Attracting Pollinators to your Backyard class this Thursday, September 5, 2019 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. USDA Scientist Kathryn Prince will introduce common native pollinator bees and butterflies found in our area and which plants they prefer. You'll also receive free milkweed and other wildflower seeds! Voluntary $2 donation asked. Sign up at ucanr.edu/pollinators/2019
Seed Saving Workshop Sept 19
Join us Thursday, September 19, 2019 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. for a fun evening on saving vegetable seeds. Learn which seeds can be saved and how best to save them. There will be a hands-on portion, and afterwards you'll take home a mason jar full of heirloom tomato seeds, as well as seed packets of other heirloom vegetables. Cost is $5. Sign ups coming soon!
Vegetable Gardening for Absolute Beginners Oct 17
You asked, we answered! Several community residents reached out to us requesting a class about the “basics” of vegetable gardening. Comments included wanting to learn more about:
- How to identify your soil type
- How often to water and why
- Making your garden water efficient
- Which vegetables to plant and when
This free class will be held on a Thursday evening from 6:00-7:30 p.m. Participants will receive free a set of cool and warm season vegetable seeds.
Succulent Gardening Workshop Oct 26
Curious to know more about succulents? On Saturday, October 26, 2019 we're holding a morning workshop all about these colorful plants! You'll learn about different varieties and how to grow and propagate them. We'll also design a succulent garden box together. You'll take home plenty of cuttings to decorate your landscape!
Stay tuned for more information. This workshop is limited to 30 participants, so make sure to sign up as soon as you see it advertised to hold your space!
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These four events will be held at the Agricultural Center in Modesto in Harvest Hall in rooms D&E.