Soils are divided into three types: sand, clay, and loam. These types describe the characteristics of the inorganic material in the soil, that is, the stuff that is ground-up rock. All soil types should include lots of organic material in order to support healthy plant growth.
As you might have guessed from the preceding posts, your gardening efforts will be more successful if you choose plants that are adapted to the type of soil you have in your yard. Examining a handful of soil can give you a good guess at its type.
- Sandy soil is made up of large, coarse particles. It tends to drain quickly.
- Clay soil consists of smaller particles. It can be difficult for plant roots to penetrate. A handful of wet soil that feels slippery is likely to be clay.
- Loam is soil that contains a good mix of sand and clay. When dug up, it has the texture of chocolate cake.
Check several handfuls, as different parts of your yard may have different soil types! This can create opportunities for establishing diverse plant communities.
One further soil type is worth mentioning. Suburban development is often accomplished by stripping off the topsoil, building a house, and leaving behind construction materials shallowly buried under sod. The resulting soil is known as urbanite, and it is usually of poor quality. But don’t despair – plant roots are remarkably good at growing through or around anything in their way. A healthy community of strong-rooted plants will improve the underlying soil, and in time you will be able to incorporate plants that are more choosy about their site conditions.