Garden Soil Texture – Testing the Texture of Your Soil
The texture of your soil is also important to allow your plants to establish their roots and to aid in moisture drainage and retention. If your dirt is sandy, it is made of larger particles. This allows air, water, and plant roots to move very easily.
This can be a drawback because the roots of the plant may not be able to get enough water before it seeps completely through. Certain plants, such as those with bulbs, thrive in sandy soil because they prefer excellent drainage. In addition, the sandy soil prevents the water from sitting on the bulbs and causing them to rot.
The opposite end of the texture spectrum is clay. Clay particles are very small and, as such, they are capable of packing together very tightly. This allows very little room for air, water, and roots.
Therefore, water tends to rest on the roots of plants in clay for a longer period of time. This can be beneficial to certain plants requiring continual moisture. In addition, gardens with clay dirt usually do not need to be watered as often as those with sandy dirt because the water is held by the clay.
Testing the Texture of Your Dirt
It is actually quite simple to test the texture of your dirt. Scoop a handful of dirt and form a ball. Then, tap the ball. If it breaks apart easily, your dirt is sandy. If you can press the dirt between your finger and your thumb in order to create a ribbon of dirt, you have clay dirt.
The majority of dirt is somewhere between sandy and clay filled.
Ideally, your garden should consist of sandy loam dirt. In this case, the dirt is light and allows water and air to move easily. At the same time it is tilth, which means it has a texture similar to fine bread crumbs. This can typically be achieved by adding organic matter, which is dead plant or animal materials, to your dirt.
You can also get an idea of how much sand and clay is in your dirt by taking a handful of dirt and placing it in a jar filled with water. Place a lid on the jar and shake it all up until it looks likes some kind of dirt milkshake. Then, set the jar aside and let the dirt settle. You will notice that the dirt settles in layers. The bottom layer is the sand and the top layer is the clay. In between is a layer of silt, which is the material found at the bottom of ponds that is also found in all dirt.
By looking at the top and bottom layers, you can get a good idea of the ratio of clay to sand in your dirt.
Improving the Texture
You should never try to change your dirt from sandy to clay filled or from clay to sandy dirt. Trying to mix these components together can result in a type of solid cement-like dirt. If you have a great deal of clay in your soil, it can be beneficial to add a little bit of sand, but there are much better ways to amend the texture of your soil.
In general, the more nutrients your ground has, the better. The same holds true for organic matter. All dirt has some organic matter, but rarely enough. Adding organic matter will improve the tilth of your dirt because it creates what is known as humus when it decays. If your dirt is sandy, the organic matter will help it to better retain water. If your dirt is clay filled, on the other hand, it will help make the dirt looser.
This allows water, air, and roots to better penetrate the ground. Regardless of the type of dirt you have, organic matter helps encourage microbial activity. This is beneficial because it provides nutritional benefits to your dirt.