Soil is found in three varieties--clay, loam and sandy soils. Each has its disadvantages in the garden, with proven measures that will increase the vitality of each. Knowing the elements that make up the soil and how to identify the soil in the garden will aid in plant survival and allow the necessary precautions to be taken to increase the nutrients and overall health of the land.
Clay soil is very problematic for gardeners. This hard soil is even more difficult to manage when it is wet. Soil that has been tilled or compacted while wet will result in a very hard soil. This requires some hard labor to loosen for planting. It is found across the Midwestern and southern states. Clay retains moisture causing root problems in many plants. It also makes it difficult for plants to thrive because the soil is so hard for root systems to penetrate. Clay soil is improved with continued tilling when soil is dry, breaking it into smaller clumps. It is essential that compost or organic material be added every few weeks to help plants thrive.
Sandy soil is gently textured and forms from the weathering of rocks, such as limestone and quartz. This sandy soil is much easier to cultivate than clay but still presents some problems for gardeners. Retaining excessive moisture in wet climates will result in root rot for plants while in more dry climates the sandy soil will over-drain. This brings on a summer drought to many gardeners. Sandy soil is improved by adding organic material, such as peat moss, animal manure or leaves.
Loam soil is the most desirable soil type among gardeners. Loam soil will provide the necessary nutrients and minerals to plants. A mixture of clay, soil and silt, loam soil is a perfect balance to keep moisture in the soil while providing adequate drainage. Made from 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt and 20 percent clay, Loam is brings the best of each soil to gardening.