Which Soil is Best for Plant Growth?

by April Reinhardt
(last updated November 10, 2014)

Several descriptors have been assigned to soil by scientists, and we can refer to the soil as being light or heavy, comprised mostly of clay, loam, or sand, and generally poor or good for planting. Yet other factors are also taken into consideration when deciding which soil type is the best for plant growth. Those factors are moisture and organic content, compaction, color, pH, structure, temperature, and texture. The most important of these factors relating to plant growth, however, are pH, organic content, and texture.

  • Soil pH. Determine first the pH of your growing soil using a universal indicator or pH paper, available for sale at your local home improvement or hardware store. Follow the instructions on the package and then match the color indicator with your soil color. Depending upon the type of plants you want to grow, you can adjust the pH to be more or less acidic or alkaline. Above a pH of 8.5, your soil will be too alkaline for most plants, while below a reading of 3.5 your soil will be too acidic. Each layer of soil has its own pH, so make sure that you take that fact into consideration when testing your soil for plant growth.
  • Organic content. The reason why we hear so much about composting a garden and adding organic matter to whatever we grow is because organic content provides many necessary nutrients to the soil for optimal plant growth. To your compost heap add organic matter such as bone meal, leftover vegetation such as leaves, twigs, sawdust, wood chips, lettuce leaves, and so forth. Do not add meat byproducts, since you will encourage varmints and bugs to infest your compost heap.
  • Soil types. Soil is basically broken down into three types; sandy, loam, and clay. You can easily determine the type of soil you have using a few simple tests. The first test, called the squeeze test, is easy to do. Take a one-inch sample of moist soil into the palm of your hand and squeeze it a bit. Rub the soil between your fingers. If it feels gritty and loose, then you have sandy soil. It won't form a ball and falls apart easily. Soil with loam is slick, yet somewhat gritty, and the ball you form will crumble easily since it is a combination of clay and sand. If the soil sample in your hand is slick, and easy to form a ball that sticks together, then your soil is comprised of clay.
  • So, what is the best soil for plant growth? The obvious answer is to amend your soil for optimal plant growth, and then you'll have the best soil.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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