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The word 'soil' is a common term used broadly to denote the uppermost layer of the earth's crust, which supports the growth of plants. Sometimes, the term 'soil' is used interchangeably with the word 'sand.' But sand, however, is merely one of the critical components that make up soil.

Going further in this article, we shall explore the many facets of soil, which includes its classification, importance, composition, and physical properties.

What is Soil?

Soil is the topmost, porous, and biologically active surface of the earth's crust, which supports the growth of plants. It consists of organic matter, minerals, liquids, gases, and living organisms.

Soil is known to have evolved through a unique process called weathering. This process is associated with the gradual breakdown of rock or other materials into finer particles. Weathering is classified into physical and chemical processes. These processes are more or less, an interaction of the influences of climate, topography, biological action, parent material, and time.

What are the Types of Soil?

There are three main classes of soil. This classification system distinguishes soil particles (minerals) based on their size, water retention, organic matter content, pH resistance, aeration, and response to daytime heat.

These particles are sand, silt, and clay.

  • Sand

Sand or quartz has a fairly large surface area (between 0.2mm and 0.02mm in diameter). It exhibits a low water-retention property, low resistance to pH change, and low humus content. It heats up quickly in the daytime. Sand is the most abundant mineral in soils.

Sand

  • Silt

These are particles with sizes intermediate between that of sand and clay ( 0.02mm to 0.002mm in diameter). It maintains a medium water retention capacity, a medium organic matter content, and excellent resistance to pH change. It absorbs heat well and is susceptible to both wind and water erosion. Sometimes it exists as soil deposited at the bottom of a water body, like mudflows from landslides.

  • Clay

Clay has the smallest surface area (less than 0.002 mm in diameter); hence, it can retain water and nutrients more than any other mineral of the soil. It contains the highest humus content, yet it's poorly aerated. The primary distinguishing feature of clay is its stickiness, which also makes it ideal for pottery molding crafts.

Importance of Soil

Soil is a vital aspect of the ecosystem. It is a store of agricultural, environmental, economic, and historical value. Some of the core functions and benefits of healthy soil include:

  • Food Production

Roots of fruit trees, vegetables, and other food crops take their anchorage in the soil, where they are continuously supplied with water and nutrients. Nutrients cycling ensures that organic compounds and trace elements are deposited into the soil and utilized by plants to manufacture food.

  • Environmental Interaction

Soil interacts with the environment by retaining and purifying specific atmospheric gases and elements which are detrimental to health. Carbon dioxide and Ammonia, for example, are contained in combined states with other elements in the soil, such that they are beneficial to plant growth.

  • Habitat

Did you know that there are more living individual organisms in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on the earth? Kathy Merrifield, a retired nematologist at Oregon State University affirms that 1 gram of fertile garden soil can hold up to one billion bacteria, and a fascinating lot of fungal, protozoal, and nematode population. Larger organisms like rodents make their burrows in the soil too.

  • Source of Raw Materials

Soil is an essential deposit of raw materials which are widely used in the building industry and pottery ware. While clay is particularly crucial in the production of cement, firebricks, and ceramics, silica sand is vital to flooring, manufacture of mortars, roofing shingles, asphalt, and glass.

  • Archaeological Findings

The soil covers up pieces of evidence of antecedent life and cultures. It's the job description of an archeologist to dig through several meters of the soil to retrieve these buried artifacts and archive them as part of our cultural heritage.

What are the Physical Properties of Soil?

We can express the physical properties of soil in terms of:

  • Structure

Soil structure shows the arrangement of the solid parts of the soil and the porous voids between them. Soil structure constricts the porosity of a soil sample, but it gets countered by biological activity and water movement.

  • Porosity

These are voids that are present In a soil sample. They make up 50% of the soil volume. These spaces are essential for aeration and water movement in the soil. The porosity of a soil sample is proportional to the size of the particles it contains.

  • Consistency

This property entails the extent of cohesion and adhesion in a given soil sample, and its ability to resist deformation and rupture. You can determine consistency under three conditions: air-dry, moist, and wet.

Other soil properties include soil temperature and color.

Soil properties

Hiring an Expert to Evaluate Your Soil

Plants are mostly grown on domestic residences either as ornaments or as food reservoirs. Whatever the motive of growing a plant, the soil has to be in perfect condition and ready to support plant life throughout the season. So, before you start planting, consider having a soil expert examine your soil for any defects, and proffer best solutions.

That said, you can count on Eden to treat your soil to optimal health levels. Call us today to experience our remarkable yard work services.

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