Best Ways on How to Know Your Garden Soil

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When you read our plant care articles, we are sure that a word that comes up often is soil. But how do you differentiate between the different types of soil? How do you know what soil to use and how to test it?

Today Plantly will help you with the best ways to know your garden soil.

The Types of Soil

But before you can check to test if your soil is good or not, it helps to know the different types of soil you find. Why? Well, from a general perspective, the word soil is a broad term that refers to layers of earth covering the planet.

Soil makes up the earth’s surface, including rock, inorganic/organic matter, and hummus. For soil to turn to stones, it can take over 500 years. Then soil forms when rocks break up into small particles. But today, we will only share some of the well-known soils you can find in your garden.

Clay Soil

clay soil

When you feel clay soil, it has a lumpy texture that sticks when wet. Yet it gets tricky when dry. The soil has poor drainage as there are few air spaces present. It will warm up slowly during spring and remains heavy to cultivate.

When you enhance the soil’s drainage, your plant roots develop well as they can be rich in nutrients. As a result, you can grow shrubs and perennials like aster, Helen’s flower, and bergamot to flowering plants like quince.

Berry crops are difficult to grow in clay soil because of their compact nature, but your summer vegetables like fruit trees, shrubs, and ornamental trees grow well.

Sandy Soil

sandy soil

Sandy soil has a gritty texture that drains well but can dry out fast. The sand warms up quickly during spring but holds fewer nutrients as it washes away with heavy rain. To kelp meal, you must amend sand with greensand, organic fertilizer blends, or glacial rock dust. Another benefit is adding mulch to retain moisture.

You can grow shrubs to bulbs like tree mallow, tulips, or sun roses in sandy soil. Even carrots, potatoes, and parsnips grow well in sand. Or you can grow tomatoes, lettuce, squash, collard greens, or peppers in the sand.

Peaty Soil

peaty soil

The soil has a darker color that feels damp yet spongy as the yield of peat moss is higher. It is acidic soil that slows down decomposition leading to fewer nutrients. It can heat up fast and retains a lot of water that needs added drainage.

When mixed with organic matter or composted with lime, it helps reduce acidity. You can amend the soil with glacial rock dust. Furthermore, plants grow well in it if you have witch hazel, azalea, root crops, salad crops, or legumes.

Silty Soil

silty soil

The soil feels soft yet soapy to hold moisture and is rich in nutrients. It is excellent soil in the garden if you provide enough drainage. You can mix organic matter to add drainage as it also adds nutrients.

You can grow shrubs and perennials to climbers in the soil, and even moisture-loving trees thrive in silty soil. Most vegetables to fruits grow in this type of soil as long as it has enough drainage.

Loamy Soil

loamy soil

Loamy soil is a mix of silt, clay, and sand soil with a fine texture on the moist side. The soil works well in gardens to grow shrubs and lawns. The structure of the soil is excellent as it provides enough drainage while retaining moisture and is full of nutrients.

But it would be best if you replenish it by adding organic matter regularly. You can grow perennials, climbers, and tubers to shrubs in a loamy soil. Both berries and vegetable crops do well in loamy soil.

But this soil needs careful management to prevent drying out.

Chalky Soil

Chalky soil

The chalky soil has large grains with a stony feel, and it is free draining overlayed with chalk and limestone bedrock. The soil has more alkaline, leading to stunted roots or yellow leaves.

You can resolve the problem using fertilizer to balance the pH. Alternatively, you can add humus to improve water retention.

You can grow trees, shrubs, and bulbs to beets, sweet corn, and cabbage in chalky soil.

How to Test Soil Type

There are a few simple tests to check what type of soil you have and whether it is healthy.

The Water Test To Ensure a Healthy Soil

If you pour water onto the soil in your garden and it drains fast, you may have sandy to gravel soil. With clay soil, it takes longer for water infiltration to take place. Hence, clay soil will be more compacted soil compared to gravel or sandy soil.

Test Healthy Plants Growth Using The Squeeze Test

squeeze test

Next, you can grab some soil in your hand to compress it in your fist. If the soil sticks and feels slick to the touch while remaining intact, keeping shape when you let it go, it is clay soil. But if the soil has a sponge feel, it is peat moss soil as sand will feel gritty and crumbling apart.

While loamy to silty, the soil is smooth but holds shape for a short while.

Settle Test For The Plant Roots

Take a transparent container and place a handful of soil inside, then add water and give it a shake. Please leave it to stand for twelve hours. The garden soil is clay or silt when the water looks cloudy with particles at the bottom.

On the other hand, the sand will leave the water clear, with most particles forming layers on the container base. Peaty soil leaves many particles floating; the water is cloudy with thin layers at the bottom.

Chalky soil will leave grit-like white fragments at the bottom, and the water will look grey. On the other hand, it is loamy soil if your water remains clear while layered with soil particles at the bottom with fine particles at the top.

Using this method allows you to amend the soil for healthy plant growth.

The Acid Test

Your standard pH level for soil is between 4 to 8.5. Healthy plants prefer a pH between 6.5 to 7 as it is the level where nutrients thrive naturally. You can invest in a pH test kit from a local garden center or us to do a soil test. But the general rule is if you have soft water, you have acidic soil, while hard water regions have alkaline soil.

How to Check/Know if Your Soil is Good

If you ask a child what the vital necessities to make plants thrive are, they would say sun and water. Yes, it is true, but for successful gardening, you need different soil types, and the soil quality should be healthy.

Healthy garden soil has a dark color that is nutrient-rich while porous and needs workable soil. But how do you determine if you have healthy soil? While most of the above methods help decide which type of soil you have.

The following soil testing methods will help to see if the plant nutrients are enough to grow healthy plants.

The Soil Test Kit

A soil test kit can determine the N-P-K (nutrient) and pH scale. When you take a soil sample, you can evaluate the condition of the soil to know what fertilizer you need to add. You can do this periodically during the growing season.

Are There Bugs Present

When you do not have beneficial soil bugs, they attack your vegetation, and the plants grow slowly. Conversely, when plants look healthy, they can resist pest infestations naturally. Is that not cool?

So, if you do not have healthy plants, the soil might need more nutrients, or it does not have the right temperature.

If the soil gets too hot, you can amend it with wood chips on top to keep it cool. You can add some compost in fall on the top of the soil to help protect healthy soil.

Test The Plant Root Depth

It is beneficial when you check the plant root depth or the roots. Yet, do not rush through the process. If you have multiple plants of the same species, you can pull up one to check the roots.

The roots need to be well spread out and long without stunted growth. If the roots look healthy, the soil is healthy, allowing the roots to reach essential nutrients. The root color needs to be white with fine strands looking like hairs.

It should not look mushy or wet as the soil needs more drainage. You can fix this problem by adding organic matter to the surface. Or you can add peat moss for a fast fix.

The Earthworm Castings Test

worm castings

Dig deep down into the soil, about six inches, to see if you find any earthworms present. It is good if you have three worms, but more is better. Earthworms help to till the garden and aerate the soil as they channel through it.

The worms feed on organic matter and leave behind earthworm castings loads with valuable enzymes, plant nutrients, bacteria, and other organic material. So, if you do not have earthworms, it lacks organic material.

But before you go and buy earthworms, first add some compost with other organic matter to keep them there.

Compacted Soil Test

Compacted soil goes hand in hand with earthworms. When the soil prevents water infiltration, the plant roots have trouble with the earthworms moving through the soil. You can test for soil compaction using a thin wire and stick it into the soil in different spots.

If the wire bends or gets stuck, it is too compact. The wire should go down deep without bending. You find this with clay soi that can become a concern. You can add other soil types to the clay to help make it less compact, like sandy soil or loamy soil.

Summing Things Up

When you know the soil type, you have and test the soil workability, root development, water infiltration, and other factors mentioned; you can grow healthy plants. If you notice the garden soil has issues start to compost immediately. The process can take a long, but you should never lose hope.

Always be patient and enjoy your gardening.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!


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