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Texas Has a State Soil

With International Soil Day just around the Corner on December 5, I thought I’d update Loving Garland Green’s activities relating to November Leaf Awareness month and also provide information regarding the state soil of Texas.

 

Compost Christmas Tree – Garland Community Garden - decorations and more lights are forthcoming

Update on November Leaf Awareness Month – Nov 22

Yesterday Charlie and I began building the “Compost Christmas Tree”.  We have most of the cloth sides stapled to the frame. The cloth we are using is recycled green environmental cloth that we picked up free in May after the Byron Nelson Golf Classic.  It was used during the event for temporary fencing.

We added solar powered lights and will add more this week.  In addition, we will put recycled tree ornaments on the tree.  If the ornament is on a hook, it is easy to hook into the fabric.  We invite the public to participate by bringing an ornament to add.  We are leaving the bottom layer mostly open for children to add ornaments.

If you visit the site you will notice that the back of the tree is still open.  Once the tree is decorated, we will shovel composted leaves into the tree along with a little natural nitrogen and beer to speed up the process. In January we will remove the decorations, except for the lights.  Next November, as a kickoff to our November 2017 Leaf Awareness Campaign, we will remove the compost and replace it with leaves from the 2017 fall.  (We are hoping the leaves will be much harder to find in Garland than they were this year.)

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Credit:  Smithsonian Institution's Forces of Change

Texas State Soil:  Houston Black

Yes, we have a state bird, a state flower, a state insect and even state soil.  Our state soil, Houston Black, is found in the Blackland Prairie, an ecoregion that includes the DFW area.  It stretches from the Red River to just south of San Antonio along Interstate 35.  The Houston Black soil series is found only in Texas, and was first described in 1902, the third year of the National Soil Survey program, in Brazoria County. The Professional Soil Scientists Association of Texas chose Houston Black as the state soil of Texas.

Every soil can be separated into three separate size fractions called sand, silt, and clay, which make up the soil texture. They are present in all soils in different proportions determine the character of the soil. In Houston Black soils, the texture is most commonly clay or silty clay.

It is one of the highest agricultural producing soils in Texas, generating between $300 to $500 million in annual revenue. Houston Black also occurs in the area where millions of people live and work, including three of the largest metropolitan areas in Texas.

Houston Black Has Limitations

When a soil cannot be used for one or more of the described functions, it is referred to as a limitation. Soil Scientists studied Houston Black soil and determined that it has moderate to severe limitations that affect the choice of plants that can be grown.

While the soil and the landscape make the Blackland Prairie very fertile agriculturally; the high clay content causes the soil to be very hard when dry and very sticky when wet, and it tends to shrink when dry and swell when wet. These properties pose limitations to how the land is worked for farming and construction. There are special management issues associated with the soil due to its properties.

For the urban gardeners who live and garden in the eco region of the Blackland Prairie, this means they need to manage the soil with amendments to make it more productive.  Because the clay is so dense, it does not leave room for the roots to breathe and access the nutrients in the soil. By mixing expanded shale into the soil at about a foot deep, a gardener will permanently add the needed breathing room in the soil to grow just about anything.

By putting this amended soil on top of a two-foot layer of rotten tree limbs, the Blackland Prairie gardener will have the perfect growing environment for just about any edible plant. The rotting tree limbs will hold water and release nutrients to the plants.  Many claim that these beds (hugelkulturs) require no extra nutrients or water for up to twenty years.

Houston Black also requires special management techniques for builders.

Hydrated lime often is added to stabilize the clays, and also layers of crushed rock and gravel are added to stabilize roads and large buildings. Foundations of buildings also need to be reinforced with steel rods.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016