As promised, the following is information about the basic types of soil as they relate to gardening. Once again, this information is intended for the “new” gardener but can certainly prove helpful to anyone interested in insuring success on behalf of the “fruits” of their labor.
There are actually five basic types of soil as well as what is known as subsoil. Be mindful that the soil in a particular location may be a combination of one or more of the five basic types. In addition, the subsoil or the soil below the general surface may be different from what is above it.
Clay soil is silky to the touch and rich in plant food. It is wet and can be difficult to work with during the rainy season but even more difficult during a draught because it becomes hard as a rock. Lime should be applied to clay soil on a regular basis to keep it from becoming sticky.
Sand soil is light and dry. It is the best soil for producing early crops because it warms quickly in the spring due to its dryness. It is easy to cultivate and can be worked with at anytime during the year but it lacks plant food and does not hold moisture well.
Loam is actually a combination of sand and clay soils. It is considered the best type of soil for large plantings. The quality of loam soil depends on the proportions of clay and sand contained in it. Ideally the presence of sand allows the roots to easily move through the soil while the clay insures the plant nutrients are available.
Chalky soils are lacking in plant nutrients and contain limestone. In a garden setting, chalky soil should be treated like clay with the exception of adding lime.
Peat soil is typically found in low-lying areas that have had ongoing growth as well as decay over a long period of time. Peat soil is completely free of lime.
Subsoil is found below the basic soil and can in most cases resemble the top soil. The subsoil on the other hand will not contain the plant nutrients that are found in the soil above its surface. The greatest impact the subsoil has on gardening is related to drainage. The subsoil either enhances or prevents proper drainage. A gardener must consider both the soil as well as the subsoil because they work hand in hand.