- (Public Value) UCANR: Protecting California's natural resources
- Author: Melissa G. Womack
Soil quality is critical to healthy plants and is a vital part of our living ecosystem. Soil is alive with organisms; their populations change depending on what is added, how the soil is used, and environmental conditions. Soil health, much like our own, is best improved gradually over time so focusing on regular or constant improvement helps achieve and sustain soil health. Do you have a soil problem in your garden? Below are some of the most common soil problems and how to fix them.
First, it is important to know what type of soil you have. According to the UC Master Gardener Handbook, good soil is 25% Air, 25% Water, 5% Organic Matter and 45% Mineral Matter. Soils are classified by the size of soil particles. Soil Particles range from large or “Sandy” to medium or “Loamy” to very fine or “Clay” with Loam being considered the best for growing plants. Get to know your soil and soil type with tips from the UC Master Gardener Program of Marin County.
Common home garden soil problems:
- Over-watering –Check your soil, is it soggy? If yes, you may be overwatering your plants. Heavy watering can drown plants when the soil becomes too saturated and forces out vital oxygen. Once you know your soil type, you can test your soil moisture to see if it is above capacity using the “Estimating soil water by feel” table.
- Over fertilizing – Plants primarily get their nutrients from soil and from added amendments (such as finished compost.) Some nutrients might also come from water. Most plants get what they need for healthy growth on their own, so gardeners should watch plants for signs they need to be fertilized instead of automatically applying based on a schedule.
Signs of over fertilizing:
- Crust of fertilizer on top of soil
- Brown leaf tips
- Yellow, wilting lower leaves
- Brown or black roots
- Slow or no growth
- Leaves falling off
- Poor soil tilth – Soil tilth refers to a soil's texture, structure, and organic matter content. Good soil tilth supports healthy root growth, water movement through the soil, introduction of air into the soil, and beneficial microorganisms. Poor soil tilth lacks these things and appears quite lifeless. Maintain good soil tilth by avoiding soil compaction, aerating soil, avoiding tilling, using green-waste as a garden top-dressing for your soil, and mulching.
- Nematodes and soil-borne diseases– Nematodes are microscopic, eel-like round worms. The first sign of a nematode infestation will include wilting during the hottest part of the day, even with adequate soil moisture. Infected plants might lose their vigor and have yellowing leaves, will grow more slowly, produce fewer and smaller leaves and fruit, and may die.Soil contains many other living organisms, including plant pathogens and diseases that attack plants. If you suspect a soil-borne pest or disease UC Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a wonderful resource to help identify and get information on next steps.
Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program
Growing and supporting soil health is something all of us can contribute to whether we have a full landscape to work in, a small patio, or a community garden plot. For gardening help and local county resources, click here to Find a Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer questions for FREE about your gardening zone, pests, composting, and the soil in your area.
Follow us all week on Facebook or Twitter, or by using the hashtags #HealthySoilsWeek2022 and #HSW2022. For more UC ANR information about healthy soils for a healthy California visit: ucanr.edu/sites/soils.
- California Garden Web: https://ucanr.edu/sites/gardenweb/Vegetables/?uid=26&ds=462
- UC Master Gardeners of Marin County, Soils Basics: https://marinmg.ucanr.edu/BASICS/SOIL_813/
- UC Master Gardeners of Tulare & Kings Counties, Nematodes in the Garden: https://ucanr.edu/datastoreFiles/268-861.pdf
|Estimating soil water by feel|
|Coarse (sand, loamy sand)||Moderately coarse (sandy or silt loam)||Medium (loam, clay loam, silty clay loam, silt, sandy clay)||Fine (clay. silty clay or light clay)|
|At field capacity contains:
(mm available moisture per meter of soil)
|SOIL MOISTURE CONTENT|
|Above field capacity||Water appears when soil is bounced in hand.||Water released when soil is kneaded.||Can squeeze out of water.||Puddles and water form on surface.|
|Field capacity||Upon squeezing no free water appears on soil but wet outline of ball is left on hand.|
|75-100% available moisture||Tends to stick together slightly. Sometimes forms a weak ball under pressure.||Forms weak ball, breaks easily, will not slick.||Forms a ball and is very pliable, slicks readily if relatively high in clay.||Easily forms a ribbon between fingers, has a slicky feeling.|
|50-75% available moisture||Appears to be dry, will not form a ball under pressure.||Tends to ball under pressure but seldom hold together.||Forms a ball, somewhat plastic, sometimes slicks slightly with pressure.||Forms a ball, ribbons out between thumb and forefinger.|
|25-50% available moisture||Appears to be dry, will not form a ball under pressure.||Appears to be dry, will not form a ball under pressure.||Somewhat crumbly, but forms a ball.||Somewhat pliable. Will form a ball under pressure.|
|0-25% available moisture||Dry, loose single-grained. Flows through fingers.||Dry, loose. Flows through fingers.||Powdery, dry, sometimes slightly crusted, but easily broken down into powder.||Looks moist but will not quite form a ball.|
|Source: Irrigation Practice and Water Management (1984)|
UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardeners Rhonda Allen and Denise Godbout-Avant are looking forward to sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge about monarch butterflies with you!
Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Time: 9:00 am – 10:30 am
Link: you'll be sent a link to log in with before the class.
- Author: Cheryl Reynolds
Are you in need of some last-minute CEUs for 2022? We're pleased to announce that a new online course on runoff and surface water protection is available and offered for free. If you are a pest management professional working primarily in structural pest control or landscape maintenance, then this course is for you! Developed by pest management experts from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the University of California, this course presents information on the Surface Water Protection Regulations that are found in Title 3 of the California Code of Regulations sections 6970 and 6972. These regulations were put into place to prevent pesticide runoff into California waterways and to reduce surface water contamination from pyrethroid insecticide use. In this course, you'll learn about the types of pesticide applications that are allowed under the regulations as well as application types that are prohibited and also application types that are exempt. The course takes a close look at pyrethroids, particularly bifenthrin because of its high use in urban areas, high detection in surface waters, and high toxicity to aquatic organisms. Fipronil, another commonly used ingredient in structural and landscape products, is addressed in the course as well because it has similar water-quality concerns as the pyrethroids. Specific label restrictions of bifenthrin and fipronil products in California are also discussed.
The Urban Pyrethroid and Fipronil Use: Runoff and Surface Water Protection course has been approved by DPR for a total of 1.5 continuing education units (CEUs), including 0.5 hour of Laws and Regulations and 1.0 hour of Other; and by the Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB) for 1.5 hours of Rules and Regulations.
UC IPM currently offers 22 other online courses with continuing education units from DPR. Many of our courses are also credited by the California Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB), Certified Crop Adviser (CCA), the Western Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (WCISA), and the Arizona Department of Agriculture.
In addition to our newest course, this year we are offering another course for free: Providing IPM Services in Schools and Child Care Settings.
Don't forget that if you are a license or certificate holder with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and your last name begins with the letters A through L, then this is your year to renew. DPR encourages all license holders to send in renewals as soon as possible. If you have specific questions about renewal with DPR, please see their new Licensing Renewal Information page.
Do you have general questions about our online courses and DPR and SPCB CEUs and want them answered live?
Join us on Zoom December 6. Drop in anytime between 3 and 4pm (PST).
Meeting ID: 984 3730 0331
- 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>
UC Cooperative Extension San Benito County is going to collaborate with San Jose State University to develop a CAL FIRE Forest Health Research grant proposal. We are interested in looking at different methods to control coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis). Coyote brush is a native shrub. However, it invades our coastal prairie grasslands, which are already in decline and are home to many native and special status plants and wildlife, not to mention being valuable forage for livestock. We already conducted a pilot study looking at different treatments (chainsaw, masticating, and crushing) prior to a prescribed burn to see which pre-burn treatments allow the burn to be more successful in controlling the coyote brush. And we are hoping to expand this study!
We are looking for landowners who would be interested in collaborating with us on the project, if it gets funded. Please take less than 5 minutes to fill out this survey to let us know if you've tried to control coyote brush in the past, how it has worked, and if you'd be interested in being part of this study.
If you are interested in reading more about the pilot study, below is the study abstract from the 2022 California Native Plant Society Conference:
Some combinations of mechanical pre-treatment & prescribed fire increase shrub mortality in Baccharis pilularis (coyote brush) encroached coastal prairie restoration, presented by Dr. Kate Wilkin
California coastal prairies have undergone dramatic woody encroachment by shrubs, including Baccharis pilularis (coyote brush). The conversion of grasslands to shrublands alters many key ecosystem services for this endangered and important habitat. These prairies, like prairies around the world, were likely maintained to be free of shrubs by frequent Indigenous burning. Many land managers have tried to remove coyote brush, but this resilient native plant is a tenacious resprouter. One technique, prescribed fire, is often difficult to apply in encroached coastal prairies because of the narrow burn windows allowed for public safety, which often do not allow more intense prescribed fires to occur. To expand the burn window and improve the shrub removal efficacy of this treatment, we completed mechanical treatments (mastication, crush, and sawing) before prescribed fire. Saw pre-treatment increased dead surface fuels, fire behavior, and shrub mortality more than other treatments. Mastication increased these factors as well, but to a lesser extent. Crushing and the control were similar. While saw and mastication pre-treatments were better than our alternatives, they had very low shrub mortality (11 and 6% respectively). We plan to complete another prescribed fire to determine if we can improve shrub mortality further.
Devii Rao is the UC Cooperative Extension San Benito County Director and Area Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor. she also covers Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.
Original source: UCCE Livestock & Range blog.