Common Soil Types
August 7th by Anthony D'Atri

When you're looking at soil types side by side it's very easy to tell the differences in their biological make up. However, most soils are a mixture of various minerals so I'll do my very best to keep the illustrations as pure as possible so that you may see the differences for yourself in each soil type. Each soil type has advantages and disadvantages, so each needs a slightly different management techniqueand supports different types of plants. The most common soil types are:


This is dry, light soil which will feel gritty if rubbed between your fingers. Sandy soil is easy to work and particularily good because it warms up quickly in the spring and can therefore be cultivated earlier than most soils. Because it is easily drained, nutrients tend to be lost easily so it will need supplementing with a great deal of organic matter, such as peat moss, triple mix, compost as well as extra fertilizer.


Clay is a heavy, cold soil which feels sticky when moist and hard and compacted when it's dry. The particle make up of the soil is really small, roughly .002mm in size. This means that clay does not drain easily and is difficult to work in wet conditions. However, it is possible to turn it into a very workable fertile soil with the proper amendments. Clay soils are normally well supplied with plant food and are capable of supporting a wide variety of plants due to their ability to retain water and nutrients.


This pale, hungry looking soil often contains a high proportion of stones and flints. The large particle make-up of the soil make it a free-draining soil which contibute to fast nutrient and water loss. Often the topsoil is rather shallow, making it unsuitable for plants with deeps roots. Chalk is also very alkaline, meaning, it contains a great deal of lime, making it inhospitable to many plants.


This type of soil is neither gritty nor sticky. The soil particles are small, making it smooth and silky to touch. When wet, it has a tendency to pack down, leaving the soil cold, heavy and badly drained, similar to clay. However, it is possible to improve the texture of the soil by applying liberal quantities of well-rotted compost or manure. Silt soils support the same range of plants as clay due to it's adequate nutrient retention.


Peat is a distinctive dark brown or grey colour and has a spongy texture. It is rich in decomposed organic matter and therefore requires little additional compost or manure. The younger brown peat is much easier to work and more fertile than the heavier, black, bog-like type. Al peaty soils tend to become waterlogged, so they need to be drained artificially. Peat is usually acid and therefore will need to have lime added to increase the range of plants that can be cultivated.

sand soilclay soilchalk soilsilt soilpeat soil