Knowing the ground

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Know the keys and clues that can help you to examine the quality and fertility of the soil in a simple way. Factors such as texture, color, odor, the state of the grass/vegetation, roots, soil compaction... are indicative that offer a lot of information.

INTRO So now we are going to talk about some little tricks to have data of how is our ground

To have more clues, especially without the need to go to soil analysis and so on

for everybody

So first of all, to know how our soil is, first we look at the vegetation

there is

For example, here's a place that has a vegetation, dense, green grass, like abundant

And that animals have passed through here not so long ago, grazing animals, and they have eaten, but you can see a pretty good density of grass

However here we see that there is much less grass, there are pieces without any grass at all and the few grasses that there are are thin, when in a more abundant site we are going to have grasses

with wider leaves and so on, as well as something very visual and basic

Another one of the important factors when it comes to seeing the condition of our soil is the texture

The texture of a soil in good condition would be something a little bit like a sponge cake, that's spongy and so on

So when we put the tools into the soil, whether it's a hoe, we see that it goes in


Let's use this other one, because we want to make a hole to show now what's there

inside, but we see that this, that this is the orca, a tool also which we'll talk about of it, so we see that it goes in very easily

But very easy, I just did my body weight

So let's take a portion out of the ground to see what we find there, that that

can also give us quite a bit of information about what's in our soil

Let's take out a portion

Well, more or less less, there we have taken a portion

This is the soil that has collapsed, I'm going to take it out here separately

Well, the color, the color of the soil, well a darker color is telling us that there's more organic matter, that is, there's more life, more nutrients, if there's more matter organic matter, there will be more microorganisms and so on

So well then, this piece of soil has a fairly acceptable color, color

Another the smell that can't be appreciated in the camera, but the smell of a fertile soil, to give you an idea, it must smell a bit like forest

Sometimes it can even remind you of the bakeries, the smell of the bakeries, because there's a lot of microbiological activity going on in a fertile soil, so there's little fermentations, lots and lots of fermentations going on there, so that fermentation smell is what's sometimes we get the forest smell, the bakery smell, in a pretty wide range, it's a way of simple way of explaining it, but the smell, if it's a more inert smell, more neutral smell, we is telling us that there's less life

Another thing that gives us a lot of information is the roots, the roots that we encounter

If we find a lot of root density, very branched roots, as we see these, that are full of secondary hairs, that's telling us that the roots in there are developing very well, they're developing well, they have nutrients and so on

The root density that we find is telling us a lot and how our roots are doing


If we're in an orchard, so we want to know how our soil is doing a little bit, so we also want to know how our soil is doing

we could take out one of our little plants or a weed that's growing in there, take it out with the root and see how that root is doing, if it's got a lot of branches, that too

gives us information

Then, the depth of the soil or the compaction, we have already seen when we put in the tool that the soil was spongy, also when you walk you can feel it and one of the, another indicative very good that I like quite a lot in the field and that you notice a lot of things is by walking barefoot

When you walk barefoot, in fertile soil there are weeds that do not hurt your feet, so to speak, they're like more spongy, more tender, more like that, and it also shows sometimes the ground even sinks a little bit

It is noticeable that there is oxygen in the soil, that it is not compacted

This particular soil, we could say, I mean, me being here and seeing what's there, I could get some interesting information out of it

This soil has been compacted, but it's been getting a lot better for a while now

Who's telling me this? These roots, this root is a fairly common weed in the whole world, which is couch grass, here we know it as couch grass, which its function is to decompact, the function that it has in nature is to decompact

This herb is of the graminia family, they can even be, that is, they are nutritious and edible all these roots, they would be similar to a cereal, and as you can see all of their terminations have the shape of a point

The roots, let's see if we can get a little root around here that's intact, the endings

of this little point, for example, they're shaped like a point because they're working their way into compacted soil

Now there is a lot of grass density, so that means that it has been developing for some time

here and fulfilling its function

So when I drilled the hole I found all this, more or less, that the soil is quite spongy because it has already been decompacted by the grass, but without the however already when I go a little deeper I find, I find what in many agricultural and livestock farms is called the working sole

The working sole is a hard and compact layer that is formed in the subsoil, it is formed between 20, 30, 40 centimeters, depending on the management that has had the plot, then there you find a very hard layer, sometimes it looks like concrete

So, what's going on there? When it rains or when we irrigate, the water doesn't penetrate in that layer, so they are there

the roots of certain plants that are specialists in opening their way through there

Of course, if we were going to plant a vegetable garden here with all this grass it would be a problem

because this grass is quite a lot, it doesn't leave others standing, then there would be different strategies to be able to improve it, which would be to decompact mechanically, if we decompact mechanically with different tools that we will also see, then this plant will not go to have as much function here and the plants, in the places where the plants appear they appear only if they have a function to perform, at the moment they have no function they disappear and others appear that are going to perform other functions of perhaps a more evolved soil, and maybe after these grasses could come clovers, they could come grasses like more succulents, wouldn't that be saying that the soil is in a more evolved stage of fertility

So, when I'm sinking the ground now it doesn't make much difference because there's a degree of humidity pretty good, it's winter and there's a pretty good humidity degree, but when there is less humidity you can notice differences in colors, because in the part of up it is getting darker and as we go down it is getting lighter, we are looking for dark lands, if we want to cultivate in them, then the darker it is the better it is our starting point, if we have no other choice and we start from a super light land that is is very poor and so on, so there's also strategies to fertilize that to be able to start crops, but if we're in a place where we can choose in which area we put the orchard, well

man it's better to start in a place with a good starting point, but also at the same time that there are no weeds like these, which are weeds that we would have to remove so meticulously so that they're not too much competition

Also to know the ground and to know how it works, because I mean, it doesn't make a difference now

a lot because there's quite a deep degree of humidity, but normally we find ourselves in the first layers, let's see on this side if you can see a little bit more, in the layers that are more we find a darker color and we find, you see, organic matter

decomposing, organic matter that is these straws, remains of grass, of leaves

and so on, that are becoming humus, that humus would already be the black stuff that we find at the top of the ground whether it's in a grassy land or in a forest, if we dig up a little bit we'll find a black layer, that's humus, that's organic matter

now that it has been composted, that has been composted it becomes fertilizer for all the plants

that are growing over there, so that black layer is usually at the top and then as we go down there's less of that dark, why do I say this? Because it's very important to understand the issue of tilling the soil, tilling the soil there are sometimes there is no other way to start a vegetable garden, for example if I want to start a vegetable garden here as there's so much grass I would have to till the soil of course, but always we tend to till as little as possible, why? Because up here, in this part of the top there are some microorganisms specialized in certain functions which are decomposing the organic matter that's falling on the soil and to convert it into humus, those microorganisms that live in the first 5 centimeters or less of the soil can live with air, they're prepared to live with air, they're aerobic, so what happens if we till the soil too much and those microorganisms up there we put them all the way down they go to be in an anaerobic environment so they will die

a lot and all that decomposing organic matter and that humus is going to oxidize, to the microorganisms

and the humus doesn't like direct sunlight that's why the soil always tends to get so covered

with falling leaves as well as with grass, so no matter how much we remove the grass we will soon be it's going to start coming out because it's a defense mechanism of the soil to improve the soil

So if we turn the soil around a lot we get the microorganisms from the bottom up

which are not prepared to live with oxygen, the ones from above we put them down which are not prepared either they are not prepared to live without oxygen, so we lose a lot of fertility there that we already have in the starting soil, then we tend to till in organic crops and when we're taking care of our soil we tend to till as little as possible and we will always talk about also more in depth about this with vertical tillage, tillage that's not going to move too much

the profiles, the layers of the soil so that there's no mismatch of microorganisms

from the bottom to the top and that most of those microorganisms die

I mean we're going to till as little as possible always keeping in mind what kind of crop we're going to grow

to do, if we are going to cultivate vegetables then it is very likely that we will have to till even though there's also techniques that we'll also mention and we'll look at no-till, zero tillage, to put an orchard for example which would be like the most difficult thing to do, to put a no-till orchard, but then on the subject of trees for example there are in many places olive groves are tilled, the vineyards, the almond orchards and so on, this is a very cultural thing in many places

but that there is no biological reason to do this

There's no biological reason, there's a lot of times cultural customs that it seems that all is competition, that whatever is not my crop, whatever are not my almond trees, whatever are not my olive trees is bad when it is already known for sure that it is the other way around, that the grass and the biodiversity and the fact that the soil is covered, what it's going to do is to increase the fertility in our soil so that our olive trees are going to be better off, so all of the new movement, the new paradigm of organic farming is going towards that, towards having covered green, the covered soils, vertical tillage when you have to till, which sometimes you have to tilling for example to plant a small tree, because if you remove the grass around it but once the tree is adult the only thing that we have to worry about is to managing the weed well at the time, it's not a matter of just leaving the weed and that's it

and you don't have to do anything, no, that concept is also very wrong a lot of times, is to manage the weed at the right time so that we circulate energy, that weed we is bringing nutrients from the air and from the sun and from the water for free

producing fertility that's working there for free for us, it's covering us the soil, it's protecting us the microorganisms in our soil which is what's going to bring health to whatever crop that we have, so this vertical tillage thing and how we manage weed is also a pretty fundamental issue to know the soil and tillage is true

that was another thing that I had forgotten about, tilling has some very good things, the main good thing about tilling is that we oxygenate the soil, that's very good, that's why I'm saying that it is much better the vertical tillage because we have the good of tilling but we don't have the bad thing about tillage, which is to turn the horizons upside down, we want to oxygenate the soil but without turning the layers, that's why we will talk more in depth about vertical tillage and well this is more or less a summary of some simple strategies for everybody to be able to visually and with our senses and with our tools to be able to have a little bit more information of how our soil is

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