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Find the Type of Soil for Your Garden

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Find the Type of Soil for Your Garden

Gardening is a very rewarding hobby but you have to be able to take good care of your plants by providing them with proper soil conditions. After all, a healthy growing process includes more than just
weeding, sowing and tending. Since greens have different needs, it’s important to choose just the right type of soil that would benefit your plants type the most. 

The 5 major types of soil 

Nutrients, water, and air are an essential part of plant growth, so the amount of these components in the soil determines whether your crop would be able to develop its full potential. There are 5 main soil types, and each one has different properties:

Sandy soil 

It is a grainy type of soil with large particle size. Due to sand’s many airy spaces and gritty texture, it drains water fast, warms up easily and quickly dries out. These qualities of the sandy soil make it perfect for spring cultivation, however, it is not really suitable for summertime gardening because the weather is usually too hot. 

Sandy soil is not rich in many nutrients. It usually requires a few organic amendments. A blending with kelp meal, greensand, or another similar fertilizer, would grant your plants exquisite conditions for spring growing.

Plant compatibilities

  • Root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc);
  • Fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, corn, peppers, lettuce, strawberries, etc);
  • Bulb flowers (Tulips, Hibiscus, etc);
  • Shrubs.

Peaty soil

Peaty soil consists of dark peat. It is a soggy and muggy acidic soil that slows decay and reduces nutrients. This damp type of soil can handle high temperatures while retaining moisture. 

In some cases, this extra water contained in the soil has to be drained manually to avoid damaging the crops. When the peat percentage of the soil is high, then you might want to dig drainage channels.

A mixture of peaty soil with compost or another organic matter would positively affect your plants since it would reduce the peat acidity. 

Plant compatibilities

  • Shrubs (Lantern Trees, Witch Hazel, Heather, etc);
  • Salad greens;
  • Root crops.

Chalky soil 

Chalky soil is stony, with large grain size. It is an alkaline type of soil that drains rapidly. Sometimes plants grown in chalky soil are stunted or start growing yellow leaves. To fix or avoid this, you might need to balance the chalky soil pH by mixing with relevant fertilizers. Also, you can blend it with hummus to keep the water in the soil longer. 

Plant compatibilities

  • Trees;
  • Shrubs (Lilac, Pinks, Weigela, etc.);
  • Vegetables (spinach, cabbage, beets, sweet corn, etc.).

Loamy soil 

The loamy soil is an even slightly damp mixture of sand, silt, and clay. Loam is often considered the best soil for plants growing because has taken the most beneficial characteristics of the soil types.

Loam is fertile and full of nutrients, allows the air can infiltrate easily, holds moisture but also has adequate water drainage. Those qualities allow loamy soil to perfectly warm up in spring, but in summer it does not dry out quickly. Regular blending with compost and organic matter is required due to the acidic nature of loam.

Plant compatibilities

  • Vegetables;
  • Berry fruits;
  • Climbers;
  • Bamboo;
  • Shrubs.

Clay soil 

Wet clay soil is lumpy and soggy, on the contrary, dry clay is really hard. This type of soil is extremely rich in nutrients, it keeps plants hydrated for a long time but has really bad draining abilities due to the small particles and the low number of air spaces.

Clay is hard to work with because it’s really sticky when wet. It also warms up slowly and drains even slowlier in spring. That is why enhancing the soil is vital in order to help your plants to grow healthier. 

Plant compatibilities

  • Perennials;
  • Berry crops;
  • Early vegetables;
  • Shrubs;
  • Fruit trees;
  • Ornamental trees.

How to recognize the soil type of your garden 

If you are not an expert scientist in soil types, fear not. There is a way to observe and acknowledge what soil type you have in your garden.

The jar test 

The Jar test is also famous as the ‘Mudshake’ since the basic thing you would do is mixing water with the garden soil. There are a few steps you need to follow to make the test work:

  1. Take soil samples from different areas of your garden;
  2. Mix them together;
  3. Dry the soil mixture on a flat surface;
  4. Remove debris, stones, and roots from the crumbly soil;
  5. Use a mortar to crush the soil into a powdery substance;
  6. Lay a 1-inch layer of the crushed soil into a glass jar;
  7. Fill it with water until it covers ⅔ of the jar;
  8. Add dish detergent or salt, to stimulate particles separation;
  9. Shake the Mudshake;
  10. Let the final mixture settle.

After a few minutes, sand would settle on the bottom of the jar. In a few hours, the silt would settle as well. Clay needs a few days to form a consistent layer. The difference between the particle types is obvious, so layers could give you a clear view of the soil types in your garden.

The next step to determine your garden soil type would be to measure each layer and figure out the proper percentages of each soil type that can be found in your yard.

How to improve the soil of your garden 

Now that you know what type of soil you are working with, it’s time to improve it. There are many ways to enrich the soil properties of your garden, but the most efficient ones would be:

Fertilize the soil 

Fertilization is an important part of every farming process. There are many ways to fertilize soil but you have to bear in mind that plants have different nutrition needs. Some soils are acid, others are alkaline, and there are also neutral types - and you have to make sure to provide the proper growing conditions for your crops.

The good news is, through fertilization you can adjust the pH levels of your garden soil to make sure its more plant-friendly, depending on the greens you intend to grow. There are different fertilizers on the market, some are natural and sustainable, others are artificial and chemical-based. 

To make your soil more acidic, consider adding sulfur or aluminum sulfate. If your plants would thrive in an alkaline growing environment, you may add ground lime to the soil. For nutrients enrichment, bet on organic matter like manure or compost.

Make sure it’s healthy 

In order to reach their full potential, plants would require healthy soil. That means you have to take care of the ground they grow on just as much as you take care of your crops. You have to make sure the soil is watered regularly and that it is rich in essential nutrients like Potassium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus.

The next tip would be to always renew the soil after harvesting. This way you would be able to grow a healthy plant all over again. Planting cover crops is a good gardening method that involves planting manure crops that would better the soil by adding organic matter, improving drainage, aeration, and building texture. Till the cover crops before they seed, so you can quickly reuse the soil for your main garden plants.

Ask a professional

If you feel lost and you are still unsure about how to improve your gardening soil, you can always turn to professionals for help. After all, taking advice from experts in the field could only be to your advantage.

Author’s Bio:


Name: Dimo Koev


Dimo has 10+ years of experience in landscaping services, garden design and maintenance, lawn care, turfing, hedge trimming, weeding, fencing, decking, patio and driveway laying, planting, garden clearance, and more. He is the president of Professional Gardening Services, which delivers the bespoke gardening services in London. Dimo believes in constantly adapting, innovating and learning about his industry in order to deliver the best service to his clients. That’s why he is so enthusiastic and eager to share his knowledge and skills with everyone who needs gardening advice. Last modified on
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Guest Wednesday, 03 March 2021