The Dirt On Central Florida Soils
There are a variety of soil types in the state of Florida
In the Panhandle they have more rocks and clay than we do, and in South Florida lime rock and clay create unique conditions. But in most (but not all) of Central Florida we are looking at sand- different types and pH’s, but basically sand.
Soils high in sand drain very well. This is good if we get a heavy rain (less flooding), but not good for gardeners who are trying to keep their plants hydrated. Sandy areas where vegetation has been removed is very susceptible to erosion, which can add to water pollution. Central Florida soils are VERY low in organic matter- they typically contain as little as 1% or less.
Our soils here in Central Florida can be a real mixed bag when it comes to nutrient levels. Many are naturally very high in phosphorus (it is mined right here in Hernando County), but not always. The only wat to know for sure is with a soil test, which we offer through our office for a very reasonable cost. The natural levels of nitrogen and potassium are generally low, but once again that can vary. The soils in Hernando County cover a wide range of pH levels. Some are very low (acidic), and others are surprisingly high (alkaline). You should never lime your soil unless you have had it tested and know that the pH is too low!
What’s a Gardener to do?
Start with a soil test. This will tell you the levels of nutrients and the pH of your soil. Second- add organic matter. This can be from bags or truck loads of compost, or better yet start making your own compost! It’s a great way to recycle your yard debris and kitchen scraps and will help our local landfill last longer. Compost improves sandy soil by retaining water and nutrients in the root zone. In clay soils, compost increases drainage.