While soil may not be the most exciting thing in the world, the ground below your feet does, in fact, have a long and storied past, and if you thought dirt was just dirt, you’re wrong, as there are several different types of soil out there. Soil is found absolutely everywhere, and consists of rocks that have broken down, due to both nature and man, into their constituent materials, including minerals, metals, and fossils. Soils are distinguished by not only their makeup, but also how big the particles are that make up the soil.
Today we are discussing the six main types of soil found throughout the world, explaining what makes each of them unique, including physical makeup, and what types of plants and crops grow best in them. If you’re interested in gardening, but don’t know where to start, this course on organic soil building for your backyard garden, along with this article on gardening for beginners, should get your new hobby off to an auspicious start.
Different Types of Soil
Soil is perhaps the most important aspect in successfully growing plants and vegetables, though not all soils are able to sustain plant life. Sometimes, different materials must be added to soil in order for it to be used for farming or gardening. Another important part of successful gardening is protecting your crop from insects. If ants are a problem, this course on controlling ants will keep your plants or veggies untouched.
- Clay Soil
Clay has tiny particles (less than .002mm), making it ideal for water retention, and resulting in slower draining, as well as the ability to better hold nutrients. Because very little air is able to pass through its smaller particles, clay tends to take a while to heat up in the warmer months, and when it dries out, it may become difficult to work with, as it gets heavy, dry, and compact, making it hard to turn. Leafy veggies, peas, tomatoes, and peppers all thrive in clay, as do roses, heleniums, and asters.
- Silty Soil
Smooth to the touch, silty soil retains water pretty well, and is very fertile, however, it does lacks some nutrients. If you have this type of soil in your garden, avoid stepping on it, as it becomes compacted quite easily, and may require aeration. The particles in this soil are tiny, and it is great for agricultural use. Almost all fruits and vegetables can thrive in silty soil, and the plants that work well in it include milkweed, and yellow iris.
- Loamy Soil
A gardener’s dream come true, loamy soil is a combination of silt, sand, and clay, as well as a bit of humus. Its pH is around 6, and its calcium levels are high, and, along with its ability to retain water and nutrients, as well as its aeration, loamy soil is ideal for crops and plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots, as well as roses and marigolds, among many others. Looking to grow other healthy crops and veggies? This course on growing a medicinal food forest will get you started on a new hobby and a healthy lifestyle, both at the same time.
- Sandy Soil
Containing the largest particles of all the soils, sandy soil is one of the worst types to try to grow plant life in. Because of the large particles, there’s a lot of space in between them, making it difficult for water to be retained. Roots have a tough time taking hold, as they cannot reach down far enough to where the water drains down to. The types of plant life that are able to thrive in sandy soil include: tulips, hibiscus, and cistus, as well as watermelons, peanuts, and peaches.
- Peaty Soil
This dark brown, or sometimes even black, soil is saturated with water and is rich in organic material, making it a great soil for growing, once drained. Its physical makeup, as well as its ability to retain nutrients and water well, help peaty soil to keep plants watered in dry months, and protected from damage in the wet months. The water found in peat is a bit acidic, and is used to regulate other soils’ pH levels, as well as controlling disease. The plants that thrive in this soil are sphagnum moss, sedges, and ericaceous shrubs.
- Saline Soil
Found mostly in very dry climates, saline soil is, like its name suggests, high in salt content. It is not a very good soil to grow in, resulting in damage to plants, stalled growth, impeded germination, and irrigation difficulties. Finding out if your soil is high in salinity is easy – simply look to see if there’s a white layer on the soil’s surface, indicating a salty presence.
- Chalky Soil
Found over limestone beds and deep chalk deposits, this type of soil can be sticky and difficult to work with when wet, and in hotter months, it dries out very easily. The low moisture content, along with the high amounts of lime, result in a pH level of 7.5, meaning it is alkali, and can result in stunted plant growth, or even yellow plants. If the soil in your part of the world is chalky, you have some options for growing in it. First, you can try to adapt to the soil, planting flowers that thrive in alkali environments, such as lilacs, lilies, or flowering shrubs. If you’d rather alter the soil to fit your needs, it may be helpful to add acid-rich materials to neutralize the soil, like peat, compost, or manure.
See? Soil can be interesting. If you just take a minute to look at what’s going on below your feet, you’ll notice some pretty interesting stuff going on. And if you plan on starting a garden sometime soon, paying attention to your soil will be necessary if you actually want something to grow. If you plan on growing food in your backyard, this course on food forest design and care will help you design and build a large garden right out back.