Soil is composed of organic and mineral materials, water and air. There are various types of soils that have particular traits, compositions and colors. Sand, clay and silt are the three basic types, although most soils are mixtures of these materials. A soil is classified by the amount of sand, clay or silt it contains. Often farmers and gardeners alter a soil's texture by adding different components to achieve conditions that are suitable for plant growth.
Sandy soil is the largest component of soil. This type of soil, which has large particles that are visible to the naked eye, typically has a light color. It's dry and light, lacks moisture and can rapidly become warm in spring. This quality makes sandy soil an excellent choice for producing early crops, although the soil is suitable for cultivation throughout the year and easier to manage than other soils. Sandy soil has hard edges and feels rough when rubbed when it's either dry or wet. Because sandy soils don't retain moisture or nutrients for long-term use, they require frequent watering.
Clay is the smallest particle of soil. Soils that have a high concentration of clay content are termed heavy soils. Although clay can retain many nutrients, it's hard for water and air to go through it. This soil is sticky when it's wet and smooth when dry. Clay soils are also known as "late" soil due to their wet nature, which makes them appropriate for planting seeds in late autumn. It's an ideal soil for planting seeds in a dry season because of its ability to retain water. According to ILoveIndia.com, it's important to frequently drain clay soil to improve its texture. During rainy seasons, clay soil can easily become sticky and unmanageable, while during droughts it is rock solid.
Silt soil is mostly made up of minerals and fine organic particles. This type of soil, whose particle size falls between sand and clay, is powdery and smooth. When silt soil is dry it has a smooth in texture, resembling dark sand. It contains more nutrients than sandy soil, although it has good drainage. It's easily workable when moist and can hold moisture well.
Loam soil is a combination of sand, silt and clay, in addition to organic matter. This soil is loose, but appears rich. It can be used to grow all types of crops. As a mixture of three different types of soils, loam soil contains the best qualities of all soil types. It's high in nutrients, quickly warms up in summer and rarely dries out in dry conditions. This makes it the best soil for cultivation. Loam soils are able to store nutrients and absorb water well. Because they can be either clay or sand-based, loam soils vary in their ability to absorb and retain water and nutrients.