What are soil aggregates?

The ground beneath your feet might seem like a uniform material, but it’s really a mixture of soil particles, organic matter, and other mineral/organic components. For a soil to be healthy, it must have good structure. Soil is made up of a combination of primary particles - sand, silt and clay. These particles can be … Continue reading What are soil aggregates?

How much compost is enough for my garden?

Adding compost to a garden is a good idea. But, like most things in life, is it best to do it in moderation? To answer that question, you need to understand what you are adding and why. Compost can help your soil structure and soil health, and make it easier for healthy roots to grow. … Continue reading How much compost is enough for my garden?

How does the Freeze-Thaw cycle impact soil?

Have you ever seen a heavy, solid rock that’s been seamlessly broken into thin plates by some invisible force? Or have you observed those eerily perfect circular patterned rock formations along mountain slopes? Maybe you’ve noticed mysterious, repetitive mounds scattered through the countryside in the middle of fields. The movement of both rocks and soil … Continue reading How does the Freeze-Thaw cycle impact soil?

What are “boutique” soils?

An old adage goes “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and the same goes for soils formed by weathering of bedrock. If you are a regular reader of Soils Matter, you will recall that soil is formed thought a process called CLORPT. (If not, read here!) Bedrock is one of the materials that can … Continue reading What are “boutique” soils?

What are those wavy bands in the soil?

Editor’s Note: You may have noticed bands in soil along roadsides, or on hikes. Soil scientists refer to these bands as lamellae [luh-mel-ee]. They are interesting areas of soils, formed by various processes, and are quite beautiful. Knowing how they form and how that might impact the area is important to growers, homeowners, road builders, … Continue reading What are those wavy bands in the soil?

Why are soils different in different states?

As the summer–and summer vacation season–is in full gear, I wonder if you’ve ever wondered about why soils look and feel different in different places. If not, read on and perhaps you’ll be inclined to pay more attention on your next adventure, or even just your next trip outside. Soil scientist and blogger, Andrea Basche, … Continue reading Why are soils different in different states?

How is carbon “stored” in soils of the Arctic and Subarctic?

Carbon is the central element in organic compounds necessary for life. Organic compounds make up the cells and other structures of organisms and carry out life processes. Carbon is the main element in organic compounds, so carbon is essential to life on Earth. Even humans are made of carbon compounds! Thick sedge and sphagnum peat … Continue reading How is carbon “stored” in soils of the Arctic and Subarctic?

What is the Critical Zone?

Critical Zone science is a new field of science that links together many existing fields.  It studies water, air, ecosystems and hard rock geology but it is not soil science. However, Critical Zone science is built upon many of the same ideas and principles of soil science. What makes Critical Zone science different is that … Continue reading What is the Critical Zone?

Are wetlands really the “Earth’s kidneys”?

Yes they are! Healthy kidneys filter wastes and water from your body 24 hours a day. They never take a break. Soil works the same way for the earth – at least when it’s healthy. Water from rain and snowmelt moves through the soil. When there is a heavy rainfall that water runs across the … Continue reading Are wetlands really the “Earth’s kidneys”?

What’s the largest terrestrial organism?

Amanita muscaria fungus growing in a high elevation conifer forest in Hawaii. We can see much of this mushroom above ground, but it has an incredible structure under ground as well. Credit J Meulemans Have you ever thought about it? I’m sure a lot of you have…what’s the biggest living thing on earth? If you’re … Continue reading What’s the largest terrestrial organism?