10 Types of Soil for Your Garden

Soil makes up the top layer of the earth and consists of organic matter, living organisms, liquids, gases, and minerals. Before you start to plant or plan for a garden, about it is beneficial to have an idea about the different types of soil available. The soil you choose needs to suit your plants.

Similar to the way that every plant survives in different temperatures and has specific watering requirements, soil type also plays a very important role in plant growth. This article contains 6 different types of soil to give you an idea of what types of soil best suit your plants.

10 Types of Soil

soil types

These are the common types of soil for your garden based on the size of soil particles and other essential properties:

1.   Clay Soil

This is a poorly drained soil type with few air spaces between the small soil particles. When dry, the soil is rock-hard, but when wet, it becomes lumpy and sticky. There are more than 25% clay particles, and as the soil temperature slowly becomes warm, this soil is not good for cultivating plants.

Clay soil is rich in nutrients, and with proper drainage, drained properly, it can suit certain types of plants.

What grows in it: Ornamental plants, shrubs, perennials, and fruit trees.

2.   Peaty Soil

By containing excessive amounts of peat, this soil is dark, spongy, and moist. This soil has good drainage and is high in nutrients, thus it is added as topsoil to provide nutrients for vegetation. The best way to use peat soil is to mix it with lime, compost, and rich organic matter, to reduce its acidity.

What grows in it: Brassicas, root crops, legumes, salad crops. Shrubs such as Lantern trees, Camellia, Heather, Rhododendron, and Witch hazel.

3.   Chalky soil

Having a fine soil texture, and a high amount of calcium carbonate, chalky soil is highly alkaline. To balance the pH of this soil, fertilizers are used, otherwise many plants show stunted growth and yellowing leaves in this soil due to its acidity.

What grows in it: Bulbs, trees, and shrubs including madonna lilies, weigela, mock oranges, pinks, and lilac. veggies such as sweet corn, cabbage, beets, and spinach.

4.   Sandy Soil

sandy soil

This soil type is rich in rock particles, feels gritty, has good drainage, and dries quickly. It doesn’t promote the growth of plants as it has a low nutrient content. A good way to improve this is by adding organic fertilizer mixtures, glacial rock, kelp meal, and greensand.

It does not retain enough moisture for good plant growth, so mulching can prove a helpful way to retain moisture.

What grows in it: Shrubs and bulbs, including hibiscus, tree mallow, and sun roses. Many fruits and vegetables are grown commercially in sandy soil, such as zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, squash, collard greens, and corn.

5.   Silt Soil

Soil particles in silt soil are larger than clay particles but smaller than sand particles. This soil is good gardening soil as it is nutrient-rich, provides aeration, and retains moisture. With drainage and maintenance, this soil needs little effort to prove good for small gardens and farms.

To improve the texture and drainage, and add nutrients to silt soil, it is necessary to add a mixture of compost and organic matter.

What grows in it: Almost all fruits and vegetables, perennials, shrubs, moisture-loving plants, such as birch, willow, cypress, and dogwood, climbing plants, and grasses.

6.   Loam Soil

Being composed of sand, clay, and silt makes loamy soil fine-grained and slightly moist. Being full of nutrients, easy to cultivate, having good drainage, excellent structure, and being able to retain moisture makes this a great soil for growing almost all types of shrubs, and lawns.

It is also good for raised garden beds and needs to be replenished with organic matter regularly. Although this soil is perhaps the most creative of all soil types, it needs maintenance to retain soil vitality, present depletion, and drying. By adding organic nutrients and compost, using mulches, rotating crops, and planting green manure crops, you can replenish and maintain this soil.

What grows in it: Perennials, climbers, tubers, and shrubs, such as rubus, wisteria, delphinium, black bamboo, and dog’s-tooth violets.

7. Topsoil

Topsoil is the uppermost layer of soil that is rich in organic matter and nutrients, making it ideal for gardening. It is the layer of soil where plants grow their roots, and it is responsible for providing nutrients and moisture to plants.

Topsoil can be purchased in bags or in bulk and is typically used to fill garden beds, containers, or to level out a lawn. When choosing topsoil for a garden, it is important to look for high-quality soil that is free from contaminants and has a good balance of sand, silt, and clay particles. Topsoil should also be free from weeds, rocks, and debris.

What grows in it: Topsoil is the ideal growing medium for a wide range of plants, including vegetables, herbs, flowers, and shrubs.

8. Clay Loam Soil

clay loam soil

Clay loam soil is a soil type that is a mixture of sand, silt, and clay particles in varying proportions. It is considered to be one of the most versatile types of soil for gardening as it combines the water-holding capacity of clay with the good drainage of sandy soil.

This soil type is known for its excellent fertility and its ability to support the growth of a wide range of plants, from vegetables and fruits to flowers and shrubs. The key to successful gardening in clay loam soil is to ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering, as the soil can become waterlogged and compacted if too much moisture is retained.

To maintain the fertility of clay loam soil, it is recommended to regularly add organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve soil structure and nutrient levels.

What grows in it: Tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, and peas, as well as fruits like apples, pears, and cherries. Flowering plants like roses, hydrangeas, and peonies, as well as herbs like basil and parsley, can also grow well in clay loam soil.

9. Silty Clay Soil

Silty clay soil is a soil type that is composed of a combination of fine particles of clay and silt, with a small proportion of sand. It is typically found in areas where sediment has been deposited by rivers, floodplains, or glacial activity. The texture of silty clay soil is fine, smooth, and slippery when wet, and it can become compacted easily.

This soil type has a high water-holding capacity and nutrient retention, making it highly fertile, but also prone to waterlogging and poor drainage. Silty clay soil can be a challenge for gardening, but with proper management and cultivation techniques, it can support the growth of a variety of plants, including vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants. Improving soil structure and nutrient levels by adding organic matter can help to make silty clay soil more conducive to gardening.

What grows in it: Potatoes, carrots, onions, peas, beans, beets, apples, pears, plums, and cherries.

10. Sandy Loam Soil

Sandy loam soil is a type of soil that consists of a mix of sand, silt, and clay, with a higher proportion of sand than silt or clay. This type of soil is well-draining and has a loose, crumbly texture that makes it easy to work with.

Sandy loam soil warms up quickly in the spring, allowing gardeners to plant crops earlier in the season. However, because it drains water so well, it can be difficult to keep nutrients in the soil, and it may require more frequent watering and fertilization.

Sandy loam soil is ideal for growing plants that thrive in well-draining soils, such as vegetables like carrots, onions, and potatoes, and ornamental plants like roses and lavender.

What grows in it: Carrots, onions, and potatoes, as well as ornamental plants like roses and lavender.

Simple Tips to Determine the Soil Type of Your Garden

rake and soil

You can check the type of soil your garden has so that the crops in your garden can thrive. A handy tip to check your soil is to do the ball trick. Here’s how to do a ball trick:

  • Take some soil from your garden
  • Make a ball in your hand
  • Open your hand; if the soil cannot hold its ball shape it is an imbalanced mixture of sand, silt, and clay. If the soil holds the ball shape, then it has a balanced mixture of sand, silt, and clay.
Clay SoilYou could feel the clay soil sticky and slimy and coat a shiny layer on your finger. It stays in shape if molded into shapes. It drains slowly after rain.  
Peat SoilPeat soil is rare and looks dark and feels spongy. It has high moisture content.
Chalky SoilBeing alkaline in nature, alkaline soil reacts with vinegar to form a foam-like substance if you place it in a jar of vinegar. It contains white stony lumps and flints that split easily.  
Sandy SoilSandy soil crumbles apart and feels gritty. It is like a tiny stone as it has a lot of sand in it. It will not hold a ball shape but will crumble easily.  
Silty SoilSilty soil is smooth and soapy on the fingers and crumbles easily. When there is eroded rock worn by water or ice, silt is created. The silt is slippery if wet.
Loamy SoilLoamy soil retains its shape for a shorter while and feels smooth. Take some loamy soil and make a ball in your hand, open your hand, and see. It should hold its shape but will break apart if you poke it.  

Tips to Maintain All Soil Types

soil types

Here are some general tips to maintain the soil in your garden and make it the most productive:

  • Choose plants according to the soil type: Most plants grow better in neutral soil, but some prefer alkaline or acidic soil. Check the soil requirements of the plants, determine the soil type of your garden, and then choose which plants would grow better. Or you could modify the soil according to the needs of your plants.
  • To make the soil more alkaline: If your plant grows well in alkaline soil, then add ground lime to increase its pH levels.
  • To make the soil more acidic: Add sulfur or aluminum sulfate to decrease the pH of the soil.
  • To make soil nutrient-rich: Adding organic matter, compost, or manure can add more nutrients to the soil and improve its texture.
  • Feed your soil: Soil should be fed just like one feeds the plants. Fertilizers should be added to the soil to make it rich in Potassium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus.
  • Soil aeration: If the soil is heavy and rich, then the soil structure and aeration can be improved by adding rotted organic material.
  • Add living organisms: To spread the nutrients all through the soil and to speed up composting, it is a good idea to add worms, beneficial insects, and mycorrhizae fungi to the soil.
  • Plant manure crops: To renew the soil by adding nitrogen, and improving drainage, texture, and aeration of the soil, it is beneficial to plant green manure crops after harvesting a crop. These include clover, legumes, and buckwheat.
  • To improve chalky soil: To add nutrients and minerals to chalky soil, it is good to add bulky organic matter

Tips To Prepare the Soil In Your Garden

maintaining soil

Here are some useful tips to make the soil ready for plantation:

  • Remove rocks: Rake the topsoil to remove rocks and make the soil better for the plantation.
  • Aerate the soil: This improves water drainage and increases proper nutrient uptake.
  • Adjust the soil pH: Perform a soil test to determine its pH and then adjust the soil pH for each plant.
  • Condition of the soil: This improves poor soil quality and makes it better for the growth of healthy plants.

FAQs about Soil

1. What is soil made of?

Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, water, and air.

2. How does soil affect plant growth?

Soil provides the nutrients, water, and oxygen that plants need to grow.

3. What is pH and why is it important for soil?

pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of soil. It’s important because it affects the availability of nutrients to plants.

4. How can I test the pH of my soil?

You can test the pH of your soil with a pH testing kit, available at many gardening stores.

5. How do I improve the fertility of my soil?

You can improve soil fertility by adding organic matter, using fertilizers, rotating crops, and practicing good garden management techniques.

6. What are the benefits of adding organic matter to soil?

Organic matter improves soil structure, increases water-holding capacity, and provides nutrients to plants.

Wrapping Up

The condition of the soil is one of the determining factors for how well your plants grow. It is best to use different soil types for different plant needs, keep the pH level balanced and provide proper drainage.

We hope our list of 6 types of soil covers the basics for you. Follow the tips given above to determine the soil type and choose plants accordingly to have a healthy and happy garden.