What types of soil do you have?

Growing vegetables requires types of soil that are rich in nutrients, easy to dig, holds their shape when moist and crumbles easily when it is ready to be planted. As a gardener it is important to consider what the soil composition is especially when choosing a new garden site.

Your vegetable plants need basic nutrients for good plant growth. These need to in the soil and accessible to the plant roots. Soil composition means the proportion of sand, silt, clay and humus in the soil.

There are four main types of soil - sandy, silt, clay and loam.

Sandy soil

  • in true form it is the exact opposite to clay soil
  • particles are large and do not bind together
  • warmest soil; can be a benefit for some vegetables
  • does not hold water
  • does not hold nutrients

Silt soil

  • has intermediate size particles
  • drains better than clay soil
  • holds more nutrients than sandy soil
  • lacking in humus

Clay soil

  • clay soil gardening is the most difficult
  • particles are tiny, bind together making it heavy and difficult to work
  • cold soil which promotes slow plant growth
  • richer in nutrients than sandy soil
  • retains water; soil is often waterlogged
  • poor drainage
  • deficient in air, plants may not get enough oxygen
  • may be beneficial in hot dry seasons
Loam soil
  • A mixture of sand, silt and clay is ideal for a vegetable garden. This ideal structure is defined as loam soil.

Most soils are a combination of all the above types, however your soil will probably lean towards one of them. This gives you a starting point.

Now let us determine what your soil type is:

  1. put a small amount of soil in the palm of your hand
  2. add a bit a water to it
  3. rub some soil between your fingers and if it is:
    1. gritty it has high sand content
    2. soapy it is silty
    3. sticky and can be rolled into a thin rope it is clay soil

It is not necessary for your vegetable garden to have consistent soil over the whole area. Different vegetables require different amounts of heat, water and nutrients therefore varying types of soil are a good thing. Do not worry if your soil it not the ideal loam. Soil can always be improved.

Soil testing is the next step in answering "Do you have healthy vegetable garden soil?"

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