Posted on 08 May 2009 by

What’s Your Soil Texture?

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soilBy Vanessa Richins

Would you look at someone funny if they asked you about your soil’s texture?

It’s actually one of the most important facts to know about your garden, as it affects what plants you can grow.

Soil texture refers to the size of the individual particles. There are three basic kinds: sand, silt and clay, and are all found in your soil in different degrees.

Sand has the largest particles of the three. It’s great for plants that don’t like to have wet roots, since it drains very well. That also means, though, that water-loving plants may have problems since the water leaves so fast, taking nutrients with it.

Silt is the middle kind of texture. It’s a good standard for most plants.

Clay has the smallest particles. They are very close together, and clay holds water for a while after being irrigated, so that causes problems for some plants. It does hold nutrients better, though. One way to improve clay soil is to add in organic material like compost.

A mixture of all three kinds is called loam, and is the stuff of gardeners’ dreams. It combines the positive aspects of all.

There is an easy way you can get an approximate idea of what kind of soil texture is present in your garden. Simply grab a moist handful and squeeze.

– If it doesn’t really stick together at all, you have sand.
– If it forms a loose ball that you can still break apart, you have silt.
– If it forms a firm ball, you have clay.

There are other tests you can do at home. For a simple one, fill a quart jar partly (2/3) with water, then add your soil until almost full. Put the lid on and shake well for 2 minutes. Let it sit for a minute, then mark where the first layer is – this is your sand layer. The layer that forms on top in about an hour is your silt layer. Your clay layer will form on top, after a day. You can look at the layers and use that to estimate the different percentages your soil has of each kind.

Most books and websites will point out if plants need a certain kind of soil texture, so look for that in the description.

What kind of soil texture do you have in your garden?


One Response to “What’s Your Soil Texture?”

  1. Dan and Deanna Says:

    That is great information. The explanation that you gave of the sand, silt, and clay is very good. Are you going to tell how people can fix the problem that they have with the different kinds of soil? Now that someone knows that they have sandy soil-what can be done to change it? Such a good post. I really like the test that is so easy to do. Thank you so much.
    Dan and Deanna “Marketing Unscrambled”

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