Gardening 101: Soil Types

Before you put any plants in the ground it’s best to have a general understanding of the basic soil types, which type you have, and what needs to be added to the soil to help support and sustain plant life.

THERE ARE FOUR BASIC SOIL TYPES:

1. Clay Soil

  • texture: extremely dense and compact (reddish in color)
  • drainage: poor
  • water retention: excellent
  • air flow: poor
  • evaporation: poor
  • other benefits:
    • rich in nutrients
    • holds nutrients well
    • does not easily dry out
  • downside
    • horrible to work with when wet – heavy and mucky

2. Sandy Soil

  • texture: does not hold shape well
  • drainage: excellent
  • water retention: poor
  • air flow: excellent
  • evaporation: excellent
  • Important Note: Because sandy soil can not hold water, and allows excellent air flow and evaporation, nutrients and water wash away and the soil dries out.

3. Silty Soil

  • texture: compact and has a “smooth, slippery texture” [source: How Stuff Works]
  • drainage: poor
  • water retention: excellent
  • air flow: poor
  • evaporation: poor
  • Important note: “Silt is often a good compromise between sand and clay soils, as it offers a density and weight that falls between these two materials.” [Source: How Stuff Works]. Although it may be a good compromise between clay and sand, it has the same downsides as clay.

4. Loamy Soil

  • texture: “…holds its shape when squeezed or compressed and crumbles slightly under pressure…” [source: How Stuff Works]
  • drainage: excellent
  • water retention: excellent
  • air flow: excellent
  • evaporation: excellent
  • Important Note: This is such an excellent and concise definition, I’m quoting it:

“Most loam is made from fairly equal parts of silt, sand and clay, giving it all the best qualities of each of these materials with few of the drawbacks. The sand content keeps the loam open so air, moisture and sunlight can reach the plants, while the clay and silt content slows down drainage and evaporation, keeping water and nutrients in place.” [source: How Stuff Works]

There’s not a “perfect” soil because all plants are made differently and have different soil needs. A plant native to the wet tropical jungles will have very different needs than plants found in the dry arid deserts. But in general, the extremes – heavy clay, sand, or silt content – are difficult for most plants to handle. Most plants will do quite well in loamy soil. Having said that, some plants do prefer a little higher ratio of clay, while others prefer a little more sand.

In the next post I’ll outline some excellent soil additives, things that will help soils heaving in clay, sand, or silt to be better suited for plant life. Even if your soil is loamy, you’ll want to consider adding at least one of these soil amendments.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

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