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  • Writer's pictureMari Stuart

4 Main Soil Types: What You Need To Know

What's one thing that all gardens have in common? Unless you have a hydroponic garden, they all have soil. Soil is undoubtedly the most important substance on earth, aside from water. Without soil, we wouldn't have plants, trees, vegetables, and more. So, this begs the question: what kind of soil do you have? What kind of soil is best? We've got answers for you. We're going to talk about the 4 main types of soil and what they're made from.

Clay Soil

For the sake of order, we've started with the smallest-sized soil. Clay particles are anything less than .002 mm. This explains the slickness and poor drainage of clay. When the particle size is small, you have more particles in a given space with little or no room for air. The tight and compact nature of clay prevents water from being able to drain. Also, the almost microscopic size of clay particles makes them slick when wet. Often, clay soil is very acidic and needs amendments, such as lime. Otherwise, many plants and produce will struggle to thrive.

To qualify as clay soil, the composition needs to have at least 25% or more clay. These soils hold nutrients very well, but this isn't without its trade-offs. When tilling the soil, you will find it extremely hard when dry and quite sticky when wet. In this part of the state, you will also run into the problem of rocks. That's why you need to be especially careful when tilling in Western NC. You may hit a large rock without knowing it was there.

Silt Soil

Silty soil is anything between .002 and .05 mm in grain size. This soil has much better drainage than clay, but it gets compacted easily. There's not much to say about silt, other than it's a middleman between clay and sand. It offers better drainage but still gets sticky and hard.

Sandy Soil

The grain size of sand is between .05 and 2 mm. This is a much broader range than any of the other soils. So, sand drains better than soil, but it has some key drawbacks. While sandy soil heats up faster than clay and silt, it loses temperature faster as well. Additionally, it cannot hold onto moisture well. This leads to drying out and dehydrated plants. Finally, sandy soil is often acidic and doesn't retain nutrients well.

Loam Soil

The best of all soils, loam is an even mixture of silt, clay, and sand. Loam is well-draining, nutrient-rich, fertile, and easy to handle. Unlike clay, you can till loam with ease and little effort. This is the kind of soil, like alluvial soil, you will find in the Central Valley of California. Alluvial soil is a mixture of silt, clay, and sand deposited by rivers and waters in the past. These soils hold the most nutrients, drain the best, and grow the most plants and edibles.

Want To Improve Your Soil Quality?

So, you understand what the main soil types are. If you want to learn more about the science of soil types and more specifics, check out this link. At Gardens of Eatin', we're horticulture, permaculture, and gardening experts. Reach out today to find out how you can improve your soil quality and get eating!

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