Tutorial:Garden Soil

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[edit] Garden Soil

Phosphate would have been added to garden soils as enhancement in a number of forms, the best known being animal manure. Calcium may have been added to acidic soils in the form of lime to increase the range of plants grown, and to improve the soil. Heavy composting would also be expected to increase calcium in the soil over time, as rotted plant material is high in that element. Magnesium was added in the form of ash and charcoal, and from composting.

[edit] Analysis

Tests of garden soils rest on the hypothesis that areas of intensive horticulture would be expected to have soils of a higher quantities of these elements than untreated soils in the same locality. The testing for pH, phosphate, calcium and magnesium offers increased scope in garden contexts. It is also possible that other elements essential to plant growth, such as potassium could be tested for. Comparative sampling should be able to locate areas of more intensive enhancement within gardens, and thus distinguish between possible past usage of areas abandoned, or where changes are suspected of taking place.

Chemical analysis can differenciate wilderness, shrubbery, lawns and plant bed areas of garden. Melon Ground, at Castle Bromwich, soil enhancement was at its greatest and was interpreted as hot beds. Poor soils were found in the widerness/shrubbery areas. The latter soils were probably derived from quarries nearby as these areas sat on built up terraces and samples were similar to those taken from known quarry hollows in the park.

These soil tests could be useful on abandoned garden sites, as well as those where changes have taken place in the past. It could also help archaeologists interpret difficult features where no other clues are forthcoming.

[edit] References

  • Currie, C. (2005) Garden Archaeology: A Handbook Council for British Archaeology, York


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