Guide to Types of Soil

The types of soil in your garden are a key element in whether it succeeds or fails. Not only does soil cover and protect a plant's delicate roots, it also provides nutrients, water and air so that a plant can grow and thrive.

Soil types are generally determined by a few factors: particle size, pH and the amount of organic material found. Smaller particles create a dense type of soil known as clay, while larger particles create the loose, sandy soils. Soil with a low pH is referred to as acidic, while high pH soils are known as chalky soil. Finally, the decayed organic matter of dead plants creates a highly valuable type of soil called loam.

Clay Soil
Clay soils are made up of tiny particles. These tiny particles form a dense material that holds water and nutrients well, but drain poorly. Clay soil feels sticky or slimy when wet. When dry, clay soils form dense, brick-like chunks.

Sandy Soil
Sandy soil has particles that are large enough to be seen by the naked eye. These large particles allow water and nutrients to drain from them readily. Sandy soil feels gritty to the touch, whether wet or dry.

Loamy Soil
Loamy soils are a combination of sand, clay and organic matter. The mixture of particles is loose and well drained, but still hold water and nutrients well. Loamy soils can be formed into a ball that will crumble with a bit of pressure.

Determining Soil Type In Your Yard
One quick way to figure out what type of soil you have is the ball test. Take a small handful of soil from your yard and form it into a ball with your hands. Sandy soil won't hold a shape and will feel grainy. Clay soil will easily form into a tight, smooth ball. Loamy soil will form into a ball, but it will crumble under very little pressure.

Most yards have some combination of soil types. Soil type can even vary in different parts of your yard, so be sure to test several areas before deciding where to plant your garden.

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Soil pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline your soil is. The number you get when you test your soil's pH can tell you whether your plants are likely to thrive in your garden spot or not. Luckily, if the answer is no, there are ways to change your soil's pH and make your garden into a more hospitable environment for your vegetables, flowers and lawn.

Plants make their own food, but they sometimes need a helping had from fertilizer. By conducting a soil test and knowing how to read a fertilizer bag, you'll be able to make choices that benefit your plants instead of harming them.

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