Kinds of Soils

Soil contains all of the nutrients that sustain life, and plants are able to extract these nutrients through their roots. To ensure that plants grow as healthy as possible, it is important to know what type of soil you have. There are three kinds of soil: clay, sand and silt. Loam is the perfect mixture of these three types and is to what all gardens aspire. Each soil type is characterized by the size of the particles of clay and sand it contains.

Clay Soil

Clay soils are tightly compacted. As a result, water does not penetrate well. The water that does penetrate does not drain. The positive aspect of clay soil is that it is high in nutrients because water does not wash them away, according to the University of California. To improve clay soil, add sand for drainage as well as compost to ensure the clay does not solidify into a hard mass when dry.

Sandy Soil

Sandy soil is harsh and gritty. Sand particles are large so water runs through them quickly. If sand was larger, it would be called gravel, according to the "Illustrated Guide to Gardening" by Reader's Digest. Sandy soil needs nutrients added because the water continually washes them away. Sandy soil can be worked earlier in the year than other soils because of its loose composition and the fact that it warms quickly in the sun. Improve sandy soil by adding organic material to add bulk and improve its water-retention capabilities.

Silty Soil

The size of silty soil particles are between the size of sand and clay. There is less compaction of silt particles, which means that water drains slower through silt than through sand, according to the "Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills" by Abigail R. Gehring. However, silt does not hold together well, becomes powdery when dry and erodes easy. When wet, silt is slippery and turns into mud. Although silt feels like clay, it falls apart when it is rolled into a ball.

Keywords: types of soil, silt, clay and sand

About this Author

Caroline Fritz has more than 18 years of writing and editing experience, mainly for publications in Northwest Ohio. She is currently an editor for a national technical magazine focusing on the construction industry. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.