Whether you are growing turfgrass, flowers or crops, there are four soil types that growers work with. Each type is composed of different sized particles: sand silt and clay. The combinations of these three particles define your soil’s type.
Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of each type: Sandy soils, clay soils, silty soils, and loamy soils. Then, we’ll discuss how you can diagnose your soil type using either a soil test or a DIY method.
Sandy soils are light and gritty to the touch. Because sandy soils have large particles, they dry out quickly, are often low in nutrients and acidic. Both water and fertilizer have a tendency to leach out of the soil - escaping to waterways before the plant can utilize them.
Advantages of Sandy Soils:
•Warms up quickly in the spring
Disadvantages of Sandy Soils
•Dries out quickly in the summer
•Nutrients and water often leech away especially with rainfall
Managing Sandy Soil
When it comes to sandy soils, apply less water and fewer fertilizers, but more often, to produce the best results. You can also amend your soils with organic matter that will improve the soil’s ability to hold onto nutrients. To improve organic matter, incorporate compost, carbon-rich sources of fertilizers, and materials rich in soil microbes.
Disadvantages of Clay
One of the disadvantages of clay, is that it stays wet long after rain. My is still heavy and very wet, and when I took a foot or so off the end of a raised bed to fit my workshop in, the squelchyness was very apparent.
When clay is wet, it’s easy to spot by grabbing a handful and seeing if you can roll into a nice, firm ball. If this happens, the soil is clay.
I’ve been careful to use a board when I do need to step onto the beds, as clay becomes compacted very easily when wet.
When the soil does finally dry out, the surface becomes like concrete, and cracks. This poses problems for sowing and planting out.
Advantages of Clay
However, I’m a man who likes to look on the bright side. A glass half full kind of grower. And therefore, all is not lost.
Despite the drawbacks, clay does have some things going for it. For example, where some say clay stays sodden, I say it retains moisture. In raised beds this is useful, as they dry out quicker than conventional beds. And because of this, plants growing in clay often deal with dry conditions better than plants in other soils.
Either way, I might not have to water as much and that can only be a good thing. :)
Clay is usually very rich in nutrients too, which reduced need for fertilising. Hungry plants such as tomatoes and courgettes will certainly not be upset about this. If the monster earth worms I found in my soil are anything to go by, there are definitely some good nutrients there.
At the weekend, I set about working my soil, and with all this in mind, I’m not completely unhappy with my gaffe.
The workability of the soil has already been improved by adding seaweed and leaf mould. Once the loosened soil had seen a bit of this lovely sun we’ve had recently, it dried out a little and began to look quite presentable
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