Know Your Soil

Dirt vs Soil

Dirt is actually not the correct term to describe that complex growing media that plants need to, well, grow.

Soil is a mixture of sand, clay, silt, organic matter, bacteria and microorganisms that help decompose organic matter into nutrients that enrich the soil. A basic soil test measures the proportion of each of these to determine the kind of soil you have.

As gardeners know, some soils are better than others for growing various different types of plants. Depending on what you want to grow and the current condition of your soil, your garden soil may need some help.

Clay Soil

If your soil is hard and cracks when dry and sticky and drains poorly when wet, you have clay soil. The particles are very fine and there is not much prganic material. The good news is that clay soils can hold on to water and nutrients better than sandy soils. You water less and fertilize less. The bad news is this heavy soil, when wet, clumps together making hard for both water and plant roots to penetrate. Clay soil needs to be loosened. Most gardeners will add organic material – compost, manure, peat moss or humus – to their clay soil in order to prevent the particles from sticking together and help water to drain through it.

Sandy Soil

Sandy soil has a gritty texture and, when squeezed into a ball, crumbles and falls apart. The particles are large. It is easier to dig in this looser soil and plant roots can penetrate easily too. It has such excellent drainage that often the problem is an inability to retain moisture and nutients for good plant growth. Again, adding organic material can remedy this situation.

Silty Soil

Silty soil, also known as loam, is the Goldilocks of soil. The particles are in sizes between those of clay and sand, not too big, not too small. It is open, retains moisture well and has a good structure. A loam soil is usually excellent for plants.

Learn how to nurture your soil organically »

Find out what your soil needs — take a soil test

At Rogue Valley Soil Testing, we will literally take you soil apart and find out what’s in it and in what proportions. We will return your results along with recommendations specific to your crop so help you accomplish your gardening goals.

Learn About Soil Testing

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