What You Need to Know about the Different Types of Soil


Written by Kate Beswick in Gardening
Viewed by 19 readers since 05-30-2009

Every gardener knows that good plants start with the soil that they are grown in. The type of soil your garden has will depend mostly on the area you live in. There are however, soils that you can purchase at nurseries to enhance the soil you already have in your space. It’s important when you are determining which type of soil you already have and which type your garden will fair best with, that you consider things such as drainage and the fact that different types of soils need different care and act differently under changing conditions. Here are the five different types of soils and what you need to know about each.


The most important thing to remember about clay soil is that it is very wet. Because of this, drainage is difficult and plants can sometimes have a difficult time adapting to the moist conditions. Clay should be dug up and turned over every fall so that the frost of winter can break the soil down. This will make clay soil much more workable come planting time in the spring. However, before you dig clay soil make sure that it’s fairly dry or it will simply spread out and become very difficult to work with. Planting in clay also needs to be done later to give it time to dry out.

However, clay soil does have its benefits. Because clay is so damp it does extremely well in areas that are known for drought and clay soil is also much richer in plant nutrients than sandy soil.


Sandy soil has many benefits over clay soil. It is lightweight and dry and therefore, does not present the drainage problems clay does. Sandy soil can also be worked at any time of the year and will produce early crops because it can be planted right away. However, just as sandy soil does not present drainage problems, it does not hold moisture in very well and so plants can dry out quickly. Sandy soil also does not contain a lot of plant nutrients.


In short, loam soil is every gardener’s dream! It has the perfect ratio of sandy and clay soil and so it has all the plant nutrients, proper amount of drainage, and retains moisture very well. Loam really does bring together the very best of sandy and clay soils but leaves their negative characteristics in the dust.

Rocky and Chalky

Soil that has a lot of rocks in it or has a chalky texture will be difficult to grow any plants in. This type of soil seems to combine the worst traits of sandy and clay soils as it can be difficult to drain and work when the conditions are wet but during dry times it can also be difficult to keep it well watered. This type of soil is generally deficient in plant nutrients and plants grown in it can become yellow and suffer from stunted growth.


Peat can be a great soil for some types of plants, such as celery however for others, it’s simply too wet to be utilized. This type of soil is so moist in fact that it sometimes needs pipe draining to be workable and because it’s usually the result of thousands of years of decay, it’s also made up mostly of organic matter.


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