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Gardening Tips Soil & Fertilizers

What are The Different Types Soils?

What are the Different Types Soils?

What are the Different Types Soils?
What are the Different Types Soils?

There are different soils types and different species of plants have different requirements. Soil types vary in different areas and there is no much point in trying to alter it unless you are doing it on a commercial basis, for example, a football club trying to get optimum soil type for the species of grass it is using. Once you have established the type of soil you have, there are lots of ways it can be improved. If your soil is in good condition then your plants will be too.

Characteristics of Different Soil Types

Sand, Loamy sand, Sandy Loam

These are well drained and aerated and workable for most of the year. They are very light to handle and quick to warm up in spring. Unless they have a very high organic matter content they are prone to drying out too quickly, and additional watering will be needed. This extra watering will also help to wash out the plant foods and lime from the soil, so they are likely to be acid (except for some coastal soils). They are often referred to as hungry soils and need lots of extra feeding. With careful management, however, they can be amongst the most productive soil types.

Medium loam, Sandy clay loam, Silt Loam

These are the average soil types. They achieve a good balance between the ability to be very productive and the minimum of attention. The medium loam group is probably the best in this respect.

Clay, Sandy clay, Clay loam, Silty clay loam, Silty clay, Silt

Although these soils are difficult to work and manage, they usually have good supplies of plant foods and lime. The main drawbacks are the high water-holding capacity (which means they are late to get going in spring) and the effort required to work them. You will need to catch just the right weather conditions to avoid hard work and damage to the soil structure. The use of heavy machinery (and especially rotavators) should be avoided at all costs, particularly when the soil is wet.

Peat Moss or Fen Soils.

Provided they are not too acid and have effective subdrainage, these are probably the best natural soils available. They are rich in plant foods, are easily workable and early. It is possible to convert your existing soil into peat type soil by adding large amounts of organic matter. Some of the keenest exhibition growers do just this. It can be time-consuming and costly at first, but once you get their life becomes much easier. You must avoid making your soil too acid though, and careful choice of organic matter is needed.

Chalk soils and Limestone Soils

These are the soils that contain a high proportion of chalk or lime. So much in fact, that it overrides their normal particle size classification. They are often very shallow soils, and severely limit the types of plants that can be grown successfully in them. If you have a soil of this type and are not happy with the range of plants it will allow you to grow, probably the best thing you can do is move to a new area and check the soil out first. If you can’t move, the most sensible course of action is to limit yourself to the plants that will grow in chalky soils. Trying to change the soil is usually an uphill struggle and quite expensive. For the incurably intrepid, details are given later in the Golden Rules for Difficult Soils section.

If you wish to improve your soil, you must identify its characteristics, is it clay based, chalky or sandy? You can find out all you need to know by simply working the soil you wish to grow in and information on local area soil types are easily available on the internet or your local library.

You can also test for the acidity or alkalinity of the soil with a soil testing kit which is widely available in garden centers.

Soil Texture

Clay soil can be so compact that even in the middle of summer it can retain plenty of water, sandy soils are made up of larger particles and can warm up and cool down very quickly. Chalky soil leaches water and nutrients very quickly and is a shallow stony soil. Loam is by far the best soil to grow in, it is very well balanced and does a very good job of retaining nutrients.

Sand Based Soils

This is a very light and easily worked soil, in the spring this soil warms up very quickly which gives the plants a good beginning to the season. However, they drain very well so nutrients are easily washed away, this is known as leaching. Sandy soils require lots of

fertilizer or organic matter added to them.

Loam Based Soils

Loam is a rich and nutritious soil type which also holds water well; this is the soil type that is also used in sports like cricket and tennis. Loam is a mixture of sand and clay and is a particularly good soil to cultivate in as long as it does not become to compact.

Clay Based Soils:

Clay is made up of particles that clog together and can become very compacted, although clay soils can become very rich, the compaction leads to a lack of air pockets in the soil which in turn leads to a lack of micro-organisms which break down organic matter into a form that can be uptaken by plants. To get the best out of clay soil, it is very important to work the soil to improve drainage and aeration.

Chalk Based Soils:

Like sand based soils, nutrients leach through this soil type very easily. In the high of summer and during periods of drought, excessive watering is needed. Alkaline loving plants thrive in chalk based soils but acidic loving plants like azaleas do not do well at all.

Acidic and Alkaline Soils

The PH of a soil is highly important, different plants require different amounts of elements and trace elements and the elements they can uptake is determined by the PH of the soil. The optimum PH for most plants is 6.5 PH, at this reading most elements are easily up-taken by a plant. Although towards the end of a season when plants flower of fruit, they often require PH levels to drop slightly. Acidic soils can be changed by adding lime which is available from most garden centers. Peat can be added to alkaline in soils to make it more acidic.

Living Soil

Living soil is good soil which is rich in organic matter, this soil contains bacteria and micro-organisms which break down dead leaves and other organic matter into vital nutrients which plants can absorb.

The presence of earthworms is also a good sign as they aerate the types of soils and pull organic matter downwards which conditions the soil.

Aerating Soil

Working the ground with a spade or fork is a good way of aerating the waterlogged or compact soil, if done on a commercial basis machine can be used to do this.

Double digging bedding areas annually at the end of a season is a good way of ensuring good soil for the following year.

Enriching Soil

Adding organic materials like manure or compost will aerate the soil and improve its texture; this also helps to retain moisture so that plants can grow better. Compost is easily made and you can create it yourself from tea bags, old leaves, and vegetable peelings. Ideally, you want to create your own compost heap and leave it for about several months to break down. When it’s ready you will have a nice dressing for whatever requirements you need.

Types Soils Testing Kits

You can test soil PH balances with a simple soil testing kit. Simply add a small drop of the chemical to the types soils and it will produce a liquid which can be matched against the color chart provided with the testing kit. This will tell you the acidity or alkalinity of the types soils and also indicate the presence of key nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen.

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