Many beginner gardeners don’t think about their soil before they jump into gardening and start planting in their backyard. However, the quality of your soil will determine the success of your garden. Soil is what allows plants to absorb water and nutrients, so it is the foundation of your garden. Knowing a little about your soil can go a long way.
3 Main Soil Types + Loam
There are 3 main soil types:
- and clay.
Soil can also be a mixture of the types.
The ideal type of soil is called “loam,” which is a mixture of 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay.
Your soil can also be “sandy-clay” or “silty-loam,” or any combination of the different soil types.
Before you plant directly into the soil of your backyard, make sure you have loam soil, or soil that is on the loam side, or else your plants may not survive for very long, or they may require a lot of extra work.
Another problem you may have, if you plant in less-than-ideal soil, is that your plants stay alive and even look healthy, but they never harvest.
Testing Your Soil
Testing your soil is very easy! To test your soil, dig a few inches into the ground, and feel the soil with your hands.
- Clay is sticky, sand is gritty, and silt is smooth.
- Loam is gritty and smooth when dry; it is sticky when wet. If you see lots of earthworms in your soil, that’s a great sign that your soil is loamy and healthy. If you have loamy soil, feel free to start planting!
If your soil is heavily skewed to one side and not very loamy at all, you’ll need to fix your soil before planting in it.
If you are unclear about what kind of soil you have, even after looking at it and feeling its texture — or if you’re just curious — you can try the do-it-yourself mason jar test.
The Mason Jar Test
Remember that one single backyard can contain many different types of soil within it. Make sure to test your soil from the specific part of your yard that you want to plant in. To test your soil:
- Dig about 8 inches into the ground.
- Fill a one-quart mason jar halfway with the soil.
- Fill the jar with plain water about three-quarters of the way full.
- Add a teaspoon of dish soap.
- Put the lid on the jar and shake the jar for about three minutes.
- Let the jar sit for 48 hours.
After 48 hours, your soil will be divided into three main layers: Sand will be at the bottom, silt will be in the middle, and clay will be at the top. Now, you can diagnose your soil!
To diagnose your soil, you can use a ruler to examine how thick each layer of soil is, or you can just look at the jar and guess what percentage of sand, silt, and clay you have. Remember, the perfect loam soil is 40% sand, 40% silt, 20% clay.
Your soil does not have to be perfectly loam for you to have a successful garden. However, the closer your soil is to 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay, the more likely you are to have a successful garden, because this is the soil type that most plants thrive in.
Fixing Your Soil
There are a lot of different ways to fix your soil. If you want to fix your soil as fast as possible, the workers at your local nursery can give you tips and tricks. For example, if you tell them you have sandy-loam soil, or silty-clay soil, etc., they can give you recommendations for how to specifically fix that type of soil, to make it more loam. If you do a web search, you can also find lots of products for fixing different types of soil.
However, if all of that is a bit much, know this: The easiest, most natural, and completely surefire way to fix all types of soil is to simply add compost and manure to it, and wait. Add compost and manure, and be patient, and try retesting in a few months!
If the soil in your backyard is less-than-ideal, another option is to buy bags of soil from the store, as well as planters, garden buckets, and/or stock tanks, and plant in those instead. In fact, you can keep your plants in planters or stock tanks permanently, if you’d like. Experiment, and see what works for you!
By Tureygua Inaru