Types of Soil: Understanding your Garden Soil

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types of soil

If you are planning to get serious about your passion for gardening, then understanding the type of soil is a crucial step.

No matter how much work you do in your garden or backyard, all the sowing, weeding, and tending could be in vain if the quality of your soil is not good enough.

The soil has the ability to provide your plants with important plant nutrients, water, and air that they require for healthy growth.

However, each plot of ground has a different type of soil, blends of minerals, organic and inorganic matter.

This largely determines what types of crops, shrubs, or trees you can grow successfully.

You can make ideal soil conditions for specific crops in plots like raised beds or planters.

However, for larger areas, and landscapes, it helps to understand the characteristics of the soil you have to work with.

Let’s learn more about the types of soils, advantages, disadvantages, and how to make the most of your garden soil.

Types of Soil

Whether you are growing turfgrass, flowers, or crops, there are different types of soil that you can work with.

However, it is important to determine what type of soil you have in your outdoor garden or backyard garden.

types of soil 1

This is because it helps to identify what types of plants or crops you can grow there and whether you need to apply fertilizers or organic fertilizers to make them rich in plant nutrients.

Each type of soil contains different-sized particles, sand silt, and clay.

Moreover, the combination of these particles defines the type of your soil.

The 4 basic types of soil are:

  1. Sandy Soil
  2. Clay Soil
  3. Silt Soil
  4. Loamy Soil

Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Sandy Soil

Sandy soil is light and gritty to the touch and has large particles.

This is the reason they often dry out quickly and are low in nutrients and acidic in nature.

Moreover, both water and fertilizer have a tendency to leach out of the sandy soil, thus escaping to waterways before the plant can utilize them.

The advantage of having this type of soil is that it warms up quickly in the spring.

sandy soil

On the other hand, the disadvantages include the ability to dry out quickly, leaching of water and fertilizers, especially after rainfall and acidity.

One of the best ways to manage sandy soil is that make sure to apply less water and fewer fertilizers.

However, more often, to produce the best results. Moreover, you can amend your soil with organic matters that will help improve its ability to hold nutrients.

To do so, incorporate compost, carbon-rich sources of fertilizers, and materials rich in soil microbes.

Clay Soil

One of the heaviest types of soil is clay soil and is often considered to be the hardest one to work with.

They have the ability to hold on to water and often take longer to warm in the spring.

Moreover, the soil composition and cracking is also a big risk of these type of soils.

Thus, it keeps the plant roots from breaking through hard layers of clay.

However, unlike sandy soils, these are rich in nutrients and are stored for much longer, and do not have the tendency to leech away.

The advantage of having this soil is that it has the ability to hold on to the plant nutrient and is great for plants that need a lot of water.

clay soil

However, the water drains slowly, slowly warms in the spring, compacts easily, and tends to be alkaline. Which is the disadvantage of them,

Managing clay soils is tough, however, with the right techniques, you can improve the overall quality of your soil.

When planting turfs, aerating your soil each fall reduces compaction. Utilizing the products that are rich in soil microbes will also help your soil to break down the nutrients.

It will also help to build roots that can easily penetrate tough clay layers.

However, in the case of garden beds or agricultural crops, you can amend it with the help of compost and products rich in soil microbes.

Silt Soil

This type of soil is more fertile than sandy soil.

Silty soil is the intermediary between sandy and clay soils and has a great tendency than other soils to form a crust.

The advantage of having soil is that it is one of the most fertile soils and holds onto nutrients better than sandy soil.

It has better water holding capacity than sandy soils and is easier to work with.

However, water filtration can be poor in this type of soil. It has a great tendency to form a crust and can become compact and hard.

To manage this type of soil, do not work with them when there are wet in order to reduce the risk of compaction.

Moreover, to increase the soil’s organic matter, you can add compost and soil microbe-rich products.

Loamy Soil

Consider this one of the most fertile soil, loamy soils are a combination of the above 3 types of soil.

The slay and silt particles in this type help to improve moisture retention while the sand minimizes compaction and improves drainage.

Loamy soils do not dry out in the summer, however, they also do not get water-logged in winter.

This type of soil is drought resistant, warms up faster in spring than clay soil can hold nutrients, and has good infiltration of air and water.

loamy soil

However, on the basis of the formation of this soil, some of them can contain stones that may affect the harvesting of crops.

Although these are ideal for growing crops, flowers, and turfgrass, you need to manage all soils or improve their health.

Thus, adding products rich in soil microbes is the key to promoting a robust soil ecosystem.

Other Types of Soil

Other types of soil are peaty soil and chalky soil.

Peaty soil is darker soil and feels damp and spongy due to its higher levels of peat.

Moreover, it is acidic in nature which slows the process of decomposition and leads to the soil having fewer nutrients.

It also heats up quickly during spring and can retain a lot of water which requires drainage.

These types of soil are great for shrubs, vegetable crops, and salad crops.

On the other hand, chalky soil is larger grained and generally contains stones than other types of soil.

It is free draining and overlays chalks or limestone bedrock and is also alkaline in nature.

It can often lead to stunted growth and yellowish leaves which can be overcome with the help of fertilizers and balancing the pH.

This soil is great for growing trees, bulbs, and shrubs.

Tests to Determine the Type of Soil

There are different types of soil tests you can do to determine the type of soil.

These are as follows:

Water Test

For this, pour water onto your soil. If it drains quickly, it is likely to be either sandy or gravelly soil, however, on clay soils, water will take longer to sink in.

Squeeze Test

Grab a handful of soil and softly compress it in your fist.

If the soil is sticky and slick and remains intact, it is clay soil.

If the soil is spongy, it is peaty soil, sandy soil will feel gritty and crumble apart.

On the other hand, loamy and silty soil will feel smooth textured and hold their shape for a short period of time.

Settle Test

Add a handful of soil in a container and water. Then shake well and leave it to settle for 12 hours at least.

Clay and silty soil will leave cloudy water with a layer of particles at the bottom.

Sandy soils will leave water mostly clear and the particles will fall, thus forming a layer on the base.

Chalky soil will leave a layer of white, grit-like fragments on the bottom of the containers, while the water will be a shade of pale grey.

identifying the type of soil

On Peaty soil, you can see particles floating on the surface, while water will be slightly cloudy with a thin layer at the bottom.

However, in the case of a loamy one, the water will remain quite clear with layered particles at the bottom of the container.

Acid Test

The standard pH of the soil is 4.0 to 8.5 and many plants favor the soil with a pH ranging from 6.5 to 7.

You can get a pH test kit from a local garden center and test your soil of acidity.

Soil Test Kit

This one assesses the primary nutrients i.e. NPK as well as pH levels.

Making the Most of Your Soil

Plants prefer neutral soil, however, it is worth noting that some plants prefer slightly acidic or alkaline soils.

Regardless of the pH of your soil, it is always possible to adjust the pH to make it more favorable to the type of plants you want to grow.

Remember, that is it temporary, thus, many gardeners and farmers advise you to make the most of the type of soil you have.

Moreover, adding ground lime to your soil will make it more alkaline while aluminum sulfate or sulfur can help make it more acidic.

selecting soil for your garden

However, if your soil is low in nutrients, try to supply it with organic matter like compost and manure to enrich it with nutrients.

You can also use organic mulch, like straw, dried grass clippings, and deciduous leaves.

This mulch breakdown and incorporates into the soil, thus adding a supply of organic nutrients and improving soil structure.

To get the most out of the clay soil add large quantities of well-rotted organic matter in the fall and peat a few weeks before planting.

It is often difficult to cultivate chalky soil as it is alkaline in nature. However, to reduce it, add organic matter that breaks down over time.

This will help to add nutrients and minerals to your soil.

Learn more about Fertilizing a Garden here.

Final Thoughts

It is important to understand the type of soil you have in our backyard or outdoor garden. It helps to determine what nutrients and organic matter you need to add to the soil to make it healthy and the one that supports your plants.

You may find it complicated at first, however, once you identify the type of soil, it will make growing and maintaining a healthy garden easily.

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