A precious natural resource, soil is classified into different types of soil with distinctive qualities according to plant-growing advantages and disadvantages. In order to sustain the nutritious growth of plants it is imperative that you classify the correct soil-type needed for your project.
Based on the prevailing size of the particles within soil it can be categorized into chalk, silt, peat, loam, sand, and clay. Below is a summary of the characteristics for each type of soil:
Silty soil holds water well and is still light and highly fertile. The particles for this type of soil are medium sized which is why they have an ideal balance between water drainage and retention. However, these particles can be easily compacted and tend to be washed away in rain. Organic matter can be added for the silt particles to be bonded into more durable clusters.
Clay soil is considered a heavy type of soil that has a high nutrient content. During the winter it retains water and the cold temperature, and in summer it dries out. For soil to be classified as clay soil it needs to consist of more than a quarter of clay particles. These particles are so small and close together that they retain a large amount of water.
These characteristics makes it a difficult soil to garden with as the water drains slowly, then in the summer it warms up slowly, and when they finally dry out, they crack up.
Sand is warm, light, and dry. Sandy soil is considered a light soil for containing more sand and only a small amount of clay, which is heavier than sand. It’s also usually more acidic and lower in nutrients.
Sandy soils are easy to work with, but their water drainage is fast. They warm up nicely in spring – faster than clay – but dry out a lot in summer and lose a lot of nutrients washed away by rain. Sand alone isn’t ideal for plant growth but adding organic matter can give plants the extra boost of nutrients they need to survive and also help with water retention.
Loamy soil is a combination of silt, clay, and sand to negate the adverse properties of each kind. Loamy soils are easy to work with, offer great drainage and are very fertile. This mix provides an optimal balance of particles and is considered the holy grail of soils for gardening. Contingent on the prevalent elements, the composition can either be considered sandy loam or clay loam.
Chalky soil can be any weight really but is always alkaline because of the lime/calcium carbonate in its composition. And being alkaline, these soils can’t sustain the development of ericaceous plants that need acidic soil to develop. If chalky soil has obvious white chunks in it, it would be impossible to acidify and thus force gardeners to choose only plants needing an alkaline-based soil.
Peaty soil is much coveted for gardening as it has a high content of organic matter and retains water very well. However, it’s almost never found in a garden naturally and is thus often introduced into a garden from an external source to create an optimal soil base for plants.
And there you have it, the six basic types of soil with their benefits and limitations.