Soil forms the base for the wonderful plants homeowners love to add to the landscape. This natural bed of small rock and plant particles nourishes the fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants that gardeners tenderly care for throughout the year. Each area of the world experiences different types of soil based on climate, local rock composition and the amount of disturbance activity in the soil. Soil also arrives in a location by the weathering process that transfers rock and plant particles. Looking at the texture of the soil helps determine the different types of soil in a location.
Clay soils feel like clumps of pottery clay. Squeeze a clump of clay soil in your hand and it just might release drops of water. Clay retains water and doesn't allow the free-flow of moisture through very small soil particles. Planting anything in clay soil often results in rotted roots and a wasted investment. To fix clay soil, add peat moss or shredded mulch to increase the drainage ability. These organic additions also improve the nutrient base in clay soil.
Medium-size particles denote the next type of soil. Silt particles are slightly larger than clay particles and as a result, hold water in much the same manner. Silt particles hold moisture and nutrients a little better than sand. The biggest fault with silt soil lies in its inability to dry out quickly. Good soil allows water movement through the particles.
Soil containing sand naturally feels gritty like the sand on a beach. Sandy soil's primary function lies in draining water quickly through large soil particles. Growing plants in this soil type requires the addition of organic material to limit the drainage ability of the soil. Adding compost, manure or vermiculite improves the ability of sandy soil to hold water and retain nutrients.
Loam tops the list of perfect soil. Loam contains the perfect mix of many different-sized soil particles, drains water readily and contains plenty of nutrients to nourish thriving landscape plants.
Topsoil contains a variety of particle sizes and resembles loam in structure. Topsoil differs from loam because this type of soil occupies the upper surface of the soil layer. This lop layer of organic and rock particles lie above the native base of soil, providing the optimum place for planting shrubs, trees, plants and grass. Topsoil drains well, contains abundant organic plant matter, prevents erosion and provides a good home for the roots of edible and ornamental plants.
We've all purchased bags of potting soil for use in houseplants and outdoor container gardens. Potting soil differs from regular soils due to its increased ability to drain water. Potting soils often contain mixtures of peat moss, bark, perlite and sand to promote good drainage. This type of soil can be considered "soilless" because it contains no minerals or decayed plant manner. However, potting soils provide a sterile option for planting seeds and limiting the spread of disease. The use of potting soil requires the regular addition of fertilizers to container plants since the soil medium doesn't provide nutrients to plants.