Soil type can be very important when planting a garden. If your soil is heavy and poor draining, it will be unsuitable for many types of plants. If your soil is too loose and airy, it does not have the proper amount of nutrients plants need to survive, in many cases. Getting the proper mix of soil is important for plants to grow well. All of these types of soil can be mixed together to get different soil textures.
Sand is largest particle in soil. It is dry and rough and does not hold moisture well. Sandy soils are usually well drained, but they do not have a high content of organic material or nutrients in them. Soil is considered sandy if it consists of 80% to 100% sand.
Silt is the medium sized particle in soil. It holds on to moisture better than sand and is fine and crumbly to the touch. When wet, silt is slippery.
Clay is the smallest particle in soil. It holds onto moisture very well and has a high number of nutrients, but it does not drain well. Many clay soils need to be amended before planting because they retain too much moisture. Soil is considered clay when it is made up of 50% to 100% clay particles.
Peat is an overabundance of organic material with very little minerals, like sand, clay or silt. Peat can be good for growing certain plants, like orchids and carnivorous plants, but most other plants need more structure in their soil.
Loam is the perfect mixture of sand, silt, and clay with some organic material, such as leaf debris, mixed together. Loam drains well, but also holds on to moisture better than sand and retains more nutrients. Loamy soils, either pure loam, sandy loam or clay loam, are considered the best garden soils for standard use.