Alkaline soils are widespread in the United Kingdom and many of these soils consist of gypsum or limestones are referred to as chalk. Although it is the most productive agricultural land in the UK, it can be difficult to farm. Chalky soils are often flat, stony, and loosely drained, and the addition of organic material can quickly degrade, making it difficult to maintain fertility. Poor growth and yellowish leaves (chlorosis) are due to the inability of plants to absorb iron and manganese from their roots. Read on to learn more about gardening in chalky soil.
Identification of Chalky soils
Chalky soil is very diverse and varies from gravel clay. Elemental clay can consist mainly of finely distributed calcium carbonate, which makes it very negative for plant growth. However, if the soil occurs, the nutrient content may be higher and the water retention increases.
How to Manage a Chalky Soil?
The chalky soil suffers from drought. They are light, little clay, and full of flint. The addition of organic matter improves its water holding capacity. Use at least one wheelbarrow for each 2.3 m2 or add mulch to at least 5 cm depth on damp soil. Organic matter has a limited life in these soils and should probably be reused every year. Covering these soils with bruises before and after planting often helps plants survive.
The presence of chalk means that the pH value is high or alkaline. This makes them unsuitable for lovers of fruits and acids, such as heather or rhododendron. They are also often deprived of nutrients. Organic substances help; otherwise, they add 100 g per square meter of total fertilizer in the spring and 70 g per square meter at the end of the season, when the plants appear to need to be refilled. If you need to add nitrogenous fertilizer, use ammonium sulfate, which acidifies the soil even if it takes years.
Nutritional deficiencies are more common in fine, limestone soils than anywhere else. If the plants lack nutrients, add more nitrogen fertilizer. This often allows plants to overcome deficiencies with a better root system, facilitating the search for nutrients.
To keep nutrients at a good level, add organic matter. Deep, chalky soils are often quite clay. Due to the mixture of clay and chalk in these soils, they are excellent for growing vegetables but do not produce fruit.
When wet, these soils are sticky and unsuitable for cultivation, although they are not as resistant as clay soils. Also, they tend to collect less water, so plants should be watered first. The addition of organic matter is useful, but due to the excellent structure of the limey soils, the advantages of organic matter are less than in sandy or clay soils.
The goal is to dig the ground in autumn with chalk and leave balls the size of a tennis ball. If there are more bumps, it is impossible to break them in the spring, leaving bundles of wet soil on the surface. If they are smaller, they can break in winter and then collapse without consistency.
Leave the ground level, or you will have to fix and push to bring up rough, water-soaked blocks that are very difficult to transform into a seedbed. Try to create a seedbed with minimal raking and cultivation. If you do too much, the soil structure will be destroyed without collapsing into the newly planted seed to form a hard, airless layer that will prevent germinating seedlings from coming off.
The soil often appears dry on top but saturated below. Therefore, avoid staying on the ground until it is drier; you may have to wait a while. Ideally, make beds and curbs that can be grown from the slopes. Narrow seedbeds about 1.2-1.5 m wide are ideal for growing vegetables. Use the steps to avoid walking on flowerbeds and wider lawns.
Many shrubs come from areas with dry lime soil and grow chalky soils. These include bay leaves, thyme, marjoram, fennel, rosemary, and sage. Grass leaves are less effective than moisture, like mint and parsley.
Chalky soils have both positive and negative effects in the garden. Drain well in spring and heat quickly. After the rain, they can be grown and walked while maintaining excellent structure. Plants thrive when you supply them with enough water and nutrients.
The chalky soil is shallow, with heavy rainfall, low plant nutrients, and high alkalinity. Some limey soil contains a lot of clay and water damages the soil that weakens it, so you have to dig deeper to dig it.