Soil is a natural resource that can be categorised into different soil types, each with distinct characteristics that provide growing benefits and limitations.
Identifying the type of soil you require for a project is paramount to support the healthy growth of plant life.
Soil can be categorised into sand, clay, silt, peat, chalk and loam types of soil based on the dominating size of the particles within a soil.
Here is a breakdown of the common traits for each soil type:
Sandy Soil is light, warm, dry and tends to be acidic and low in nutrients. Sandy soils are often known as light soils due to their high proportion of sand and little clay (clay weighs more than sand).
These soils have quick water drainage and are easy to work with. They are quicker to warm up in spring than clay soils but tend to dry out in summer and suffer from low nutrients that are washed away by rain.
The addition of organic matter can help give plants an additional boost of nutrients by improving the nutrient and water holding capacity of the soil.
Clay Soil is a heavy soil type that benefits from high nutrients. Clay soils remain wet and cold in winter and dry out in summer.
These soils are made of over 25 percent clay, and because of the spaces found between clay particles, clay soils hold a high amount of water.
Because these soils drain slowly and take longer to warm up in summer, combined with drying out and cracking in summer, they can often test gardeners.
Silt Soil is a light and moisture retentive soil type with a high fertility rating.
As silt soils compromise of medium sized particles they are well drained and hold moisture well.
As the particles are fine, they can be easily compacted and are prone to washing away with rain.
By adding organic matter, the silt particles can be bound into more stable clumps.
Chalk soil can be either light or heavy but always highly alkaline due to the calcium carbonate (lime) within its structure.
As these soils are alkaline they will not support the growth of ericaceous plants that require acidic soils to grow.
If a chalky soil shows signs of visible white lumps then they can’t be acidified and gardeners should be resigned to only choose plants that prefer an alkaline soil.
Loam soil is a mixture of sand, silt and clay that are combined to avoid the negative effects of each type.
These soils are fertile, easy to work with and provide good drainage. Depending on their predominant composition they can be either sandy or clay loam.
As the soils are a perfect balance of soil particles, they are considered to be a gardeners best friend, but still benefit from topping up with additional organic matter.
Need help choosing the right soil for your growing needs?
You may also be interested in learning more about topsoil and the different grading’s available.
Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to discuss your growing requirements. We have over 30 years of experience supplying ‘as dug’ and screened topsoils to professional horticulturalists, landscapers and gardeners.
Commercial projects can get in touch via phone on 01536 510515 or contact us here for a free quotation.
We also have an online store for smaller soil purchases: www.garentopsoildirect.co.uk