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Uses of the Different Types of Soil

Dry soil - ecology problem image by Pavel Bernshtam from

A good garden starts with the right soil. Plants rely on soil for nutrients, water and oxygen for the roots. The wrong kind of soil can make it impossible for even the best gardener to grow a particular species of plant.


Sandy soils are made primarily of large grains. They drain well and have a lot of space between the soil particles, allowing plenty of air to get through to the roots. On the downside, sandy soil does not hold water or nutrients well, which causes it to require frequent fertilization and watering. Sandy soil is good for low-water desert plants such as cacti and succulents.


Silty soil is made up of finer particles than sandy soil and holds water better. It often has a higher quantity of nutrients and generally retains fine organic particles. It can sometimes not drain quiet well, although it is much better in this respect than clay soil. According to the BBC, silty soil is excellent, fertile ground for a large number of shrubs, vines, grasses and flowers.


Clay soil has the finest particles of any of the soil types. When wet, it is sticky and clumpy. When they dry, they can become rock solid. Although clay soil retains a lot of organic matter, its denseness makes it unsuitable for many plants. According to the BBC, aster, helenium, bergamot and a number of other bright flowers will grow well in clay.


Loam is actually a mixture of the other soil types. According to, loam ideally consists of 40 sand, 40 percent silt and 20 percent clay, although in practice, loam can vary somewhat. Loam combines the ability to store nutrients and water that clay and silt soils have with the good draining characteristics of sand, making it an ideal, all-purpose soil. According to the BBC, just about anything will grow in loam.


Peat soil is acidic. When organic matter such as twigs and leaves falls in, it cannot decompose quickly. As a result, peat soil is nutrient poor. It also tends to retain water. It can be treated with fertilizer, which will make it a good soil for many plants. According to the BBC, a number of shrubs such as heather, witch hazel and camellia grow very well in peat soil.


Chalky soil is low-quality, alkaline soil with stones in it. According to, chalky soil dries out easily and lacks certain trace minerals, causing yellow, unhealthy plant leaves. Chalky soil requires a lot of fertilizer and can also benefit from having other soil types mixed in. Lilac trees, Madonna lilies and weigela shrubs are some plants that grow well in chalky soil.

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