Types of Soil

Common Types Of Soil

Soil is a natural resource that is categorized into different soil types, including clay soilloamy soilsaline soilchalky soilsandy soilsilty soil and peaty soil. Each of these have definite characteristics and features that provide growing benefits and drawbacks. Identifying the type of soil you need for a project is beneficial to support the healthy growth of plant life. 

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In this article, you will learn the types of soil in detail, ways to determine the soil type of your garden and the soil which is best for growing plants.

1. Clay Soil

Clay Soil is the most dense and heavy soil type that is packed with high nutrients. The particles are tightly packed together with very little or no air space. Clay soils remain wet and cold in winter and dry out in summer. It is sticky to touch when wet, but gets smooth when dries up. 

It is made up of 25% clay, and because of the spaces found between clay particles it holds a high amount of water. Also, due to this quality clay soil makes it difficult for moisture and air to penetrate into it. 

Clay soil does not drain well and takes longer to warm up in summer. This does not provide space for plants to flourish combined with drying out and cracking in summer, they can often test gardeners. 

The best place to find clay is along floodplains of rivers and streams or on the bottoms of lakes, ponds, and seas. Even if these structures existed millions of years ago, long after the water is gone the clay will remain where it was left behind.

2. Loamy Soil

Loam soil is a combination of sand, silt and clay that are mixed to avoid the negative properties of each type.

This type of soil is fertile, provides good drainage and is easy to work with. Depending on their principal composition they can be either sandy or clay loam.

It has a perfect balance of soil particles and has the ability to retain moisture and nutrients. Therefore, it is considered to be a gardener’s and farmer’s best friend. 

It is also referred to as agricultural soil as it equally includes all three types of soil materials that are sandy, clay, silt and also benefits from added organic matter. It also has higher calcium content and pH levels because of its inorganic origin. 

In the U.S you will find loamy soil in the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Lowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Standard loam soil will consist of roughly 50% soil solids that are a combination of sand, silt, and clay and 50% pore spaces and water.

Water is retained easily in loam soils, but does not enter into it easily to increase bulk and density. As a result, the particles in loam soils have a tendency to detach. 

3. Saline Soil

Saline soils exist in arid, semiarid regions and in regions of poor natural drainage. This type of soil has poor physical properties owing to high sodicity and high pH. 

Under these conditions, soil erosion, slow water infiltration into the soil, slow internal drainage, compaction, poor aeration, and waterlogging on lower lands commonly occur due to soil swelling and dispersion. 

Significant progress has been made in managing and controlling salinity, sodicity, and alkalinity in irrigated lands. However, because of natural hydrological and geochemical factors, and irrigation-induced activities, soil salinity, alkalinity, soil erosion and drainage continue to disturb agriculture. Control of salinity is important to establish a sustainable and successful agriculture.

Soil salinity affects plant growth both physically as an osmotic effect and chemically as a nutrient and/or toxicity effect. As the salt content of the soil increases, it becomes more difficult for plants to pull up water.

In the U.S. saline soils are found all over Colorado. They contain high concentrations of potassium ions, chloride ions, and sulfate ions. Saline soil is not suitable to use for farming as soil salinization hinders the growth of plants by limiting the uptake of water by plant roots. It also results in yield loss and decreased quality.

Saline Soil

4. Chalky Soil

Chalk soil is either light or heavy but is always highly alkaline due to the calcium carbonate (lime) within its structure that has built up over time. 

These soils are alkaline with pH between 7.1 and 10, therefore will not support the growth of ericaceous plants that need acidic soils to grow. It is basically stony, shallow and dries up fast. The areas that have large deposits of chalk, the well water there will be hard water.

If a chalky soil shows signs of visible white lumps then they can’t be acidified. Then, gardeners should only choose plants that grow in alkaline soil. 

Chalky can be responsible for nutrient deficiencies in plants. Iron and manganese particularly get locked up in chalky soil. Indications of nutrient deficiencies are yellowing of leaves and irregular or stunted growth. 

Chalky soil can prove to be extremely dry for plants in summer. You can plan to modify the soil, but you may have to stick with drought tolerant plants that prefer alkaline soil. 

Chalky soil can be improved by tilling in lots of organic material like composted pine needles, humus, leaf mold, manure, compost, and/or peat moss. You can also pre-plant a cover crop of vetch, beans, clover, or bitter blue lupine to improve chalky soil.

5. Sandy Soil

Sandy soil consists of small particles of weathered rock. It is warm, dry, light, and tends to be acidic. It is the poorest type of soil to grow plants as it is low in nutrients and has poor water holding capacity that makes it difficult for plant’s roots to absorb water. Sandy soils are also referred to as light soils due to their high proportion of sand and little clay. Sandy soil is typically formed by the disintegration of rocks like limestone, granite, and quartz.

These soils have a good water drainage system and are easy to work with. They rapidly warm up in spring more than clay soils but are prone to dry out in summer and tolerate low nutrients that are washed away by rain.

The addition of organic matter like humus can help provide plants an additional supply of nutrients by increasing the nutrient and water holding capacity of the soil.

Sandy soil is present in the entire 12-state region in the central part of the United States. It is present partly in one continuous sandy area, lying mostly in Nebraska and extending into South Dakota and Wyoming, covering about 20 million acres. Also, it covers about 18 million acres in Texas and New Mexico.

Sandy soil is used for plowing, planting and cultivating. The vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, grams,etc can be cultivated in it. They need a minimum percentage of soil for a particular period. 

6. Silty Soil

Silty soil is light and comprises smaller particles as compared to sandy soil and is made up of rock and other mineral particles that are larger than clay and smaller than sand. 

The smooth and fine quality of silty soil can hold water better than sand. Its particles are easily transported by moving currents or washed away by rain.

It is mainly found near the lake, river and other water bodies. It has a high fertility rate  and is moisture retentive, therefore is used in agriculture to improve soil fertility and growing crops. The silt particles can be bound into more stable clumps by adding organic matter.

Some of the plants and trees appropriate for silt soil are Yellow iris, Japanese iris, Swamp milkweed, Weeping willows, Red chokeberry, Bald cypress, and American elder.

7. Peaty Soil 

Peat soil is made up of decomposed organic matter that has formed over thousands of years. Peat soil contains a high percentage of organic matter content from plant materials like decaying sphagnum peat moss. Peat soil gathers in wetland ecosystems called peatlands or peat bogs.

Typically, peat is cut by hand and left to dry in the sun. Companies may extract water from peaty soil which can be used as fuel. Peatland can also be a significant source of drinking water supplying nearly 4% of all potable water reserved in reservoirs.

In several countries, peat was traditionally used for cooking and domestic purposes. In the U.S., Canada is the biggest exporter of peat. 

In horticulture, peat is used to enhance the moisture-retention capacity of sandy soils and to promote the water infiltration rate of clay soils. It is also added to potting mixes to meet the acidity needs of many potted plants. 

The most important disadvantage of peat soil is that it is an unsustainable, non-renewable resource. Harvesting peat soil can result in climate modification as it releases greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane into the air.

Silty Soil

What Are The Ways To Determine Soil Type Of Your Garden?

Determining soil type will help you choose the right plants to grow in your garden and maintain them in good health. You can perform a soil test by sending a soil sample to a lab where you get a detailed analysis of soil nutrients and find out about deficiencies in it. The best way to identify the type of soil you have is by touching it and rolling it in your hands. 

  • Sandy soil is gritty and you can feel the sand grains and they fall through your fingers. It cannot be made into a sausage shape. If it is not a coarse sand but a sandy loam it may stick together better.
  • Clay soil has a greasy quality, and is sticky when wet. It can be easily made into a long thin sausage and can be made smooth to a polished finish by rubbing with a finger. If your soil is not a heavy clay it would not get quite as gleamy and be as simple to make a sausage.
  • Pure silt soils are scarcely available in gardens. They have a slight soapy and slippery texture, and do not clump easily. 
  • If your garden soil froths when kept in a jar of vinegar, then it contains free calcium carbonate (chalk) or limestone and is lime rich.
  • Another important factor to determine soil type is the pH (acidity or alkalinity). This will also determine the type of plants you can grow and how to manage your soil.

Eden hopes that now you know in detail about the different types of soil. This will help you choose the right soil for your garden and maintain your plants in healthy growth. If you have any questions, contact Eden today and get your queries solved.

From selecting the right seasonal plants to installing an outdoor kitchen, our landscaping services can do it all for you. Contact us today for a stunning landscape!