I’m just going to get right into it:

There are three main types of soil: Clay, Sand, and Silt


clay20soil20finger20impressions20small problems-with-sandy-soil0

Above: Clay (left) and Sandy soil (right)


  • Can be formed into a ball
  • Holds water more readily
  • Compost must be worked in
  • Can cause mud or soggy feet (in plants)
  • Holds nutrients more easily
  • More fertile


  • Sifts through hands
  • More dry, doesn’t hold water
  • Loses water, dries quickly
  • Compost can be mulched (laid on top)
  • Warms up faster in spring
  • Less fertile


Between clay and sandy soil, it is deconstructed mineral matter and is finer than sand.  Often found in river bottoms, it feels like flour when dry and is slippery when wet.

Limestone/Chalk: full of rocks, more alkaline

Peat soils: Lots of organic plant matter, retains moisture, acidic

Loam: This is pretty much where you want to be on the soil spectrum.  Loamy soil both retains some moisture, but doesn’t get soggy.  You will see a lot of reference to fruiting plants being referred to as liking “loamy soil”.  No shit.  It rocks.


Ideally, good soil should be firm, but pliable.  If you hold a handful, it should not sift through your hands, but be able to crumble while sticking together just a bit with moisture.  Think of rich “fertile” earth.

15-compost-handsBy finding a balance between sandy and clay you have soil that:

  • Roots can move through and grow
  • Holds water long enough for plants to take advantage of it, without soaking roots and causing rot
  • Holds nutrients so they don’t run off
  • Contains enough green matter that the nutrients and good microorganisms can continue to work through soil

If the soil is on one end of the spectrum or the other, you can neutralize the texture by adding compost.  More on composting in another post.

After you get the compost worked in over time and the soil is the desired consistency, test the pH levels of the soil.  You can do this by ordering a soil testing kit from your local extension office.

If you have a service come out and test the soil for you for a more complete picture of your soil composition, you may need an interpretation of the results.  Oregon State University has a document that helps guide soil testing results interpretation.

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***Order A Soil Testing Kit***


Photo Credits

Featured Image: kindgreenbuds.com

junglemusic.net; ehow.com; macteeninterpreters.wordpress.com

pH Soil Balance: snohomishcd.org