Published on August 2nd, 2013 | by gatsbyadmin0
Identifying and Working WIth Your Type of Soil
There is one thing that everyone who desires to plant a garden with flowers, medicine, or herbs has in common: soil. Soil is the one universal factor necessary for growing. If you have yet to attempt your own or have only grown in one spot so far, you may not even be aware that there aremultiplekinds of soil, as well as different ways to work with each kind – different water retention/drainage techniques, different pH balances, and differences in which plants and foods will work best.
There are six main soil groups: clay, sandy, silty, peaty, chalky and loamy. They each have different properties and it is important to know these to make the best choices and get the most from your garden.
1. Clay Soil – in general, clay soil feels lumpy and sticky when it is wet, and rock hard when it is dry. This type of soil can be rich in nutrients but poor at draining, so if the drainage is enhanced, then plants will generally develop and grow well.
Clay soil is perfect for: Perennials and shrubs such as Helen’s Flower, Aster, Bergamot, Flowering quince. Summer crop vegetables can be high yielding vigorous plants, once the slow-to-warm-up clay soil is ready. Fruit trees, ornamental trees and shrubs also thrive on clay soils.
2. Loamy Soil – a fine-textured, damp, and (usually) even mix of sand, silt, and clay, and is basically the best kind of soil you could hope for, with the best characteristics of all soil types: great structure, adequate drainage, is moisture retaining, full of nutrients, easily cultivated and it warms up quickly in spring, but doesn’t dry out quickly in summer. Loamy soil tends to be acidic, and needs to be replenished with organic matter regularly.
Loamy soil is perfect for: Climbers, bamboos, perennials, and most veggies and berries, given that this can be one of the most productive soil types.
3. Sandy soil – very common in Colorado. This type of soil is gritty, dries out exceptionally fast and drains very well. The ease of draining with sandy soil, however, can be the downfall – this type of soil tends to hold few nutrients, as they tend to get washed away. Sandy soil benefits from mulching, as well as organic amendments, such as various organic fertilizers or glacial rock dust.
Sandy soil is perfect for: Shrubs and bulbs such as Tulips, Tree mallow, Sun roses, and Hibiscus. Vegetable root crops like carrots, parsnips and potatoes do well in sandy soils. Lettuce, strawberries, peppers, corn, squash, zucchini, collard greens and tomatoes are grown commercially in sandy soils.
4. Peaty soil – this type of soil is generally darker due to the peat – partially decayed vegetation – and generally feels damp and spongy. It is highly acidic and usually contains few nutrients, heats up quickly, and retains a lot of water. When using peaty soil, drainage channels may have to be dug to keep it from holding too much water. When blended with rich organic matter to raise the pH, peaty soil can be ideal for growth.
Peaty soil is perfect for: Shrubs such as Heather, Lantern Trees, Witch Hazel, Camellia, Rhododendron. Vegetable crops such as Brassicas, legumes, root crops and salad crops do well in properly drained peaty soils.
5. Chalky soil – this soil type has much more rocks than most soils – it will be larger grained as well as stonier. It’s free draining and generally alkaline in nature, which can be dealt with simply by using the right organic fertilizer and balancing the pH.
Chalky soil is perfect for: Trees, bulbs and shrubs such as Lilac, Weigela, Madonna lilies, Pinks, Mock Oranges. Vegetables such as spinach, beets, sweet corn, and cabbage do well in chalky soils.
6. Silty soil – this last type of soil is rich in nutrients. It feels soft and soapy, holds moisture easily, and can be cultivated with little effort. Mixing in some kind of organic matter (compost works great!) is usually recommended to help drainage.
Silty soil is perfect for: Shrubs, climbers, grasses and perennials such as Mahonia, New Zealand flax. Moisture-loving trees such as Willow, Birch, Dogwood and Cypress do well in silty soils. Most vegetable and fruit crops thrive in silty soils which have adequate drainage.
If you can’t tell by looking at it or feeling some in your hands, there are a few tried-and-true methods to determining your soil type.
Now, get out there and get planting!