Soil is the skin of the earth and probably our most valuable asset but commonly referred to as dirt. As a lad growing up on a Bedfordshire small holding I was taught how important it was to look after soil and was never allowed to refer to it as dirt – dirt was a nasty substance that should be avoided.
Soil acts as an engineering medium, a habitat for soil organisms, a recycling system for nutrients and organic wastes, a regulator of water quality, a modifier of atmospheric composition, and a medium for plant growth. Since soil has a tremendous range of available niches and habitats, it contains most of the earth’s genetic diversity. A handful of soil can contain billions of organisms, belonging to thousands of species.
The pH value of soil is important as when at its optimum level nutrients required for plant growth are freed and made available for the plant to absorb them via its root system. With that in mind, yesterday I processed some samples of soil taken from my garden as a base point.
Four samples from different parts of the garden have been allowed to dry out on the windowsill.
Soil testing kit bought from the internet.
The above pictures show that even in a small garden there is variation, this is party because some areas have received more compost than others and the raised beds have been filled with soil bought in and brought to the garden. With the pH level confirmed to be suitable for growing food plants I intend to record the results and recheck in a years time to see if it improves with regular and generous mulching.
Today, the 2nd February is Candlemas Day and marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. The name Candlemas is associated with the Christian festival day (or mass) of the candles. It was the day of the year when all the candles, that were to be used in Church during the coming year were brought to church and a blessing was said over them.
But as a country boy growing up in the 1950’s I was more interested in the weather-lore and proverbs associated with it. People believed that Candlemas Day predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. The weather proverbs express the idea that a fine bright sunny Candlemas Day means that there is more winter to come, whereas a cloudy wet, stormy and cold day means that the worst of winter is over.
“If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
The half o winter’s to come and mair;
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half o the winter’s gane at Yule.”
Now I can honestly say that despite have seen well over fifty Candlemas days I have never remembered in summer to check. Today has been a huge improvement on yesterday with much sun and midday temperatures nudging double figures so we shall have see, we certainly have had no winter at all yet, just a very long and wet autumn.
Looking round the growing beds today there are too many signs of spring, leaves already on the Clematis and hawthorn and buds ready to burst on soft fruit cuttings taken last October. Nature has a knack of catching up and I fear winter will be hear, but late again like last year!
“When the badger peeps out of his sett on Candlemas Day,
And, if he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining he draws back into his sett.”
“A farmer should, on Candlemas Day,
Have half his corn and half his hay.”