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How to Determine Soil Type and Fix It

By Edited May 31, 2015 3 4

Soil type and overall health has an impact on the success of whatever is growing in it. Some plants require a rich, loamy soil, others require a sandy soil and still other perform better in dirt higher in clay content. You don't have to frustrate yourself trying to figure out soil type or pay to have it done for you. There are some very simple steps to answering this question. Improving the soil type takes more work though and doesn't happen overnight.

To determine what type soil you have, wet some and squeeze to make a ball of it in your fist.
If it will not ball up and falls apart, you have sandy dirt.
If it balls up and stays that way, you have garden soil high in clay.
If it balls up but falls apart when poked, congratulations, you are one of the lucky ones who has loamy dirt.

Loamy soils consist of approximately 40% sand, 40% silt and 20% clay particles. These soils are high in nutrients and rich in organic matter. They drain well and are easy to work with. If you don't have loamy dirt, you will need to amend the dirt to improve it. This doesn't happen overnight but there is hope.

You can buy topsoil that has compost added to it to give your soil a jumpstart. Most garden centers will carry this. You will need to use quite a bit of it though. It takes a few years to fix problems. It doesn't matter if it is sandy or high in clay particles, it takes time and patience to fix it. Continue to mix organic material into it at the start of every planting season.

You can still plant in this dirt, just use plants that will do well in the soil type so you don't get frustrated. There are some companion planting techniques that also aid in developing soil health. Planting alfalfa will break up hard soils, marigolds will leave behind nematode fighting agents for years after they no longer grow in the spot, beans will affix nitrogen to the spot, yarrow can be used as a mulch and adds beneficial organic matter back into it, the list goes on. With a little research you can find plants that will address your specific soil type issues.



Oct 1, 2009 11:37pm
great info on determining soil type ours is clay with sand.... yuck but ah well I have been working on amending a corner of it for years and even after tons of organic matter it still looks pretty much the same... going for raised beds now
Apr 29, 2010 8:40am
Yeah, it can take a lot of work and dedication to fix soil. And in some areas of the country it can be a losing battle and raised beds are the only option if you really want to grow certain plants. I hope your raised beds go well, I have had great luck with them in the past, but remember to refresh that soil every year too LOL.
Oct 2, 2009 8:43am
Thanks for the easy way to determine soil types. I think I'll get my hands dirty and check it out today. We have chalk deposits running through the soil so it makes it interesting when digging down.
Aug 5, 2010 5:36am
I've found myself with sandy clay silty soil, a high sand content, breaks up in hand, but doesn't drain water at all.
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