The success of your garden or landscape will depend on your soil.

Soils very widely and if you want to grow a successful garden it is important to know what kind of soil you have for both construction and planting. Just like everything in life, the more preparation you put into it, the more likely you are to be successful. Knowing your soil will help guide you to building stable foundations for structures, designing drainage and growing healthy and happy plants.

Soils are often divided into three common types; sand, clay and loam. There are also other factors that make a major difference in soil composition and fertility like stone, caliches, organic content, acid and more.

LoamCredit: Photo by Jane GatesSandy soilCredit: Photo by Jane GatesClay soilCredit: Photo by Jane Gates

Loam SandClay

You might even find different types of soil in different parts of your garden. So it’s a good thing to check all the different areas where you want to plant. Rocky soil is easily observed. Acidity and alkalinity are better measured with a soil testing kit or by tests from your local agricultural department. Caliches are easily recognized when you see layers of semi-solid sandstone ridges that are too hard to cut through with an ordinary shovel.

A quick way to test your soil type is to moisten a handful and squeeze it in your hand. If it crumbles apart easily when you open your hand, you are likely to be holding a handful of sandy soil. If the soil stays firmly together – especially if it keeps the shaped impression of your hand – your soil is likely to have a lot of clay in it. If the soil loosely stays together you probably have either a good loam or a combination of sand and clay. In most cases, if you have ample organic matter in your soil, you will likely have a good loam.

You can also check your drainage by digging holes in different parts of your garden and filling them with water to see how fast the water drains. Clay soils tend to drain slowly whereas sandy soils will drain very fast. The ideal soil will drain nicely, but not too fast. Don’t feel you are unlucky if you don’t have the ideal soil and drainage. You can amend your soil by adding more of what your soil lacks. Or – a better idea – you can plant the kind of plants that thrive in the soil you already have. There are some lovely plants that prefer sandy or clay soils over the ideal loam.

The important part is to know what kind of soil you have so you can design, prepare and plant your garden successfully.