Some Issues typical to Utah soils along the Wasatch Front
1) Alkaline soil pH (pH values above 7)
Because of the abundance of calcium carbonate (the main ingredient in limestone) found in the soils along the Wasatch Front and most agricultural soils in Utah, soil pH values are alkaline ranging from 7.2 to 8.5, and sometimes even higher. In this pH range, micronutrient metals, like iron, zinc, and manganese become less available to plants.
When plants are deficient in these nutrients they suffer in their quality, health, and fruit yield.
Soils along the Wasatch Front can also be high in salt. You can have the salinity of your soil tested, which is one of Paul’s recommended tests. There are different ways of treating soils high in salt.
One way is to flush the salts out of the root zone with a clean source of water. This can be done either through flood or sprinkler irrigation. If your soil seems heavy and compacted, it will have drainage issues (which will also hold the salt in). Adding a rich compost to the top 12 inches of soil will help open-up your soil allowing the salts to drain out.
However, you’ll want to avoid using organic compost from animal byproducts like poultry, cow, or horse manure, as those composts can contain a lot of salt.
Many garden soils in Utah may contain more than the desired amount of clay (greater than 30% clay). Too much clay holds onto water and causes drainage issues. You can have a texture test done (also one of Paul’s recommended tests), which will tell you how much clay, sand, and silt is present in your soil.
When purchasing topsoil, Paul recommends asking the vendor for topsoil that is less than 30% clay, less than 70% sand, and less than 70% silt.
If your soil tends to be high in clay, adding and mixing in a good compost will help, but again, if you’re having salt issues avoid a compost derived from animal sources.
For good composting practices check out our video; Composting with Wasatch Community Gardens.