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SOIL SAVVY: WHAT’S YOUR SOIL TYPE?

If you’ve read Kellogg Garden articles for a while now, you’re aware that healthy soil is the most valuable thing a gardener can have — in fact, it’s the building block of everything else. But soil types vary widely depending upon where you live, and these soil types come with their individual challenges. To have your garden look its best and your plants grow happy and healthy, it pays to know what type of soil you have.

Learn More: Determining Your Soil Type

Now, chances are that you can talk to any reputable garden center in your area or call your County Extension office and they’ll be able to tell you what type or types of soil are common in your area, but if you’re still unsure, check out this list.

Sand. Sand has large soil particles and feels rough to the touch. Sandy soils are low in nutrients and have almost no ability to retain water, as the water runs right through it before plants can absorb it. This type of soil needs 2-3” of compost worked into the top 6-8” of soil — but you’ll have to be religious about doing this, because sandy soil takes a long time to amend.

Silt. Silty soil is smooth and powdery to the touch, and while it is high in nutrients, it compacts fairly easily. To avoid this, regularly work 2-3” of compost into the top layers of soil.

Clay. Clay soil is smooth when dry and sticky when wet. It is typically high in nutrients, but does not allow air and water to flow through. It’s usually on the wet side, and compacts easily. To amend clay soil, add bulky organic materials like leaf mold, wood chips, and decomposed straw and leaves. Many gardeners also swear by adding sand to break the clay up, and while that can work, it takes a longer period of time and it’s very difficult work.

Loam. This is the type of soil that you want to create — it has relatively equal parts sand, silt, and clay, is high in nutrients, and retains moisture but drains well. If this is your soil type, simply add a 1-2” layer of compost annually to maintain its health.

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