Wednesday 17 August 2011


It is important to understand the type of soil you have in your garden in order to select plants that wil grow successfully within it. There is no ideal soil type for plants but knowing your soil type will help you to identify plants that will thrive in your garden.

The proportions of clay, silt and sand within your soil indicates the soil texture. There are a variety of soil types along the spectrum according to the ratio of sand to silt to clay. A high proportion of clay particles gives a clay soil, a high proportion of silt gives a silty soil, and high proportion of sand gives a sandy soil and a mixture of all there gives a loamy soil.
  • Sandy Soil 90% sand : 10% silt and clay
  • Loamy sand 75% sand : 25% silt and clay
  • Sandy loam 60% sand : 40% silt and clay
  • Loam 50% sand : 50% silt and clay
  • Clay Loam 40% sand : 60% silt and clay
  • Sandy clay 30% sand : 70% silt and clay
  • Clay 55% sand and silt : 40% clay
  • Silty Loam Higher proportion of  silt than sand and clay

To identify the texture of your soil  look at the soil.  If the soil drains quickly even after heavy rain and is always easy to dig it is a sand or sandy loam. If it is sticky to walk on when wet with clods sticking to your shoes, and then rock hard when dry it is a clay or sandy clay soil.

To test for soil texture take a small amount of soil in your hand, removing any stones/debris. Wet the soil and gently knead it to form a smooth paste. Identify if the soil layer feels gritty, silky or sticky.
If it feels sticky and gritty is a loam.
If it is gritty then roll the soil up into a ball.  If you cannot form a ball it is sand. If it will form a ball but falls apart easily it is  a loamy sand. If it readily forms a ball that sticks together it is a sandy loam.
If is silky it is a silty loam
If it is sticky, roll into a ball and then into a worm.  If the worm breaks up when rolled the soil is a loam.  If the worm forms easily then rub the surface with your finger - if the surface remains rough it is a clay loam.  If the surface is shiny when rubbed but also gritty then it is a sandy clay.  If the surface is shiny and the soil is not gritty then the soil is clay.

For related articles click onto:
Feeding plants
Grass maintenance - laying turf
Grass maintenance - sowing a lawn from seed
How to build a cold frame
How to make compost
Laying concrete
Non-grass lawns
Paths - Brick paving
Plants for Autumn
Preparing a seed bed
Soil structure

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