Understanding the Basic Soil Types

by Lee Wyatt
(last updated March 21, 2016)

No matter how enthusiastic you may be about gardening, you can't get very far if you don't understand the basics. In gardening or landscaping, you can't get more basic than the soil that you are working with. By understanding the basic soil types that you have to deal with, you will know what the most basic tool of all is, and how to use it to your best advantage. Surprisingly, there are really only three basic types of soil that the gardener is faced with. These three types are clay, sandy, and loam soils, and all soil types that you can find yourself faced with are simply some combination of these three. Here is a little more information that you can use to make things easier when you start working in your garden.

  • Clay soils. Strictly speaking, clay soil is defined as a type of soil that that has more than 30 percent of mineral particles that have a diameter that measures .002 millimeter or less. This type of soil usually has a very sticky texture and is usually extremely hard to work with. In addition, this type of soil is usually very resistant to water, and doesn't drain very well. During the hotter months of the year, this soil will "bake" so that it is very hard, and make it even more difficult to work with. Despite all of these negatives, this type of soil is extremely rich in nutrients, and can help your plants to grow if the proper steps are taken.
  • Sandy soils. Sandy soil is defined as any type of soil which has a mineral composition of at least 35 percent that have a diameter of between .10 millimeters and .50 millimeters in diameter. Sandy soil is exceptionally fast at draining water, and has a lower content of essential plant nutrients than other kinds of soils. Unlike other kinds of soils though, sandy soils are exceptionally easy to work with, and warm up fairly quickly, and as such make them perfect for growing early vegetables in the spring.
  • Loam soils. Loam soil is defined as any type of soil in which 1/3 of the composite materials are clay, 1/3 are sand, and the rest is silt. This type of soil is perhaps the single best option among the soils for growing vegetables, flowers, and other plants. The reason for this is that it combines the best qualities of the clay soils, with the best qualities of sandy soils. If you can, try to make your soil as loam-like as possible when gardening. For those who happen to be blessed with this type of soil, then you want to make sure that you don't over tax it, and preserve it to the best of your abilities.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...

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