Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New Resource

As winter approaches we can turn inward to enjoy our interior foliage plants, such as this cool begonia, and also spend some time doing a little research and planning for the more active gardening months to come.

A few weeks ago, when my soil scientist brother-in-law was here visiting, he showed me a great resource for accessing NRCS soil surveys. The Web Soil Survey site is fairly user friendly, although it takes a while to get the hang of how to ask for the information you want. And there is a LOT of information! You can learn the percentages of clay, sand and silt as well as organic matter in your soil. You can find out the pH, etc., etc. The best part is that you can select the specific reports that you want to keep, put them in a “shopping cart” (there is no charge, this is just a new way to disseminate existing information) and have them sent to you via e-mail as a PDF document. The site also has great definitions---explanations if you will---of various aspects/components of soils.

The bad news is that not all addresses you may query have an associated soil survey---they aren’t in the data base yet. Also, the data is only as good as the information created in the original soil survey. For example, my soil here is sandy. My personal expert soil scientist confirmed that while squirming around in the house’s crawl space (a plumbing horror story for another time!). But the survey for my address includes my location in the broader swath of the survey area. Classification: Nunn Series. This is a clay soil type and certainly fits the characteristics of my friend’s house just six blocks to the south, but doesn’t apply to me.

Conclusions? Check it out, play around. Just know that for the most accurate information about a specific site you’re better off running a soil test through your local land grant university. Go here to access soil testing information from Colorado State University.

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