What is a Soil and What are Different Types of Soil?


Soil is the part of the earth’s surface comprised of disintegrated rock and humus that provides the medium for plant growth. The development of soil takes time, between hundreds and thousands of years, and consists of diverse materials which are both inorganic and organic. The inorganic materials are the non-living aspects of the soil such as minerals and rocks while the organic materials are the living aspects of the soil such as the soil micro-organisms.

The process of soil formation is through the rock cycle together with the integration of soil microbial and chemical activities originating from living organisms. For instance, during the decomposition of dead plants and animals, nutrients are mixed up with the weathered and disintegrated rocks to form soil. Soil is considered as a natural resource because of its agricultural productivity benefits. Various soils have different mineral and organic compositions that establish their specific characteristics.

What are Different Types of Soil?

  1. Loamy soil

Loamy soil is one of the riches soil types because of its composition. Loamy soil is composed of a mixture of clay, sand, silt, and decaying organic materials (humus). The soil has a pH level of 6 with high calcium content and the potential of retaining water and nutrients for relatively longer periods. This is what makes it one of the riches soils for crop production. The distinguishable composition of loamy soil may vary, but it can be made perfect with the right balance of additives.

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For instance, compost manure is usually added to loamy soil to improve the desired qualities which may be lacking. Loamy soil is dark in color and has a dry, soft, and crumby feel on the hands. It has good nutrient and water holding capacity. It also drains well and has pore spaces which enable air to freely move in between the soil particles down to the plant roots. Essentially, this is the characteristic making loamy soil the most ideal for plant growth and for that reason, the most preferred soil by gardeners.

  1. Clay soil

Clay is one of the many unique soil types due to its composition of a very fine-grains and plasticity when moist but hard when fired. The clay soil particles are tightly compressed together with no or very little air space. Because of this feature, clay persists as the heaviest and densest type of soil. Also, it is this characteristic that makes it to hold and retain large quantities of nutrients and water, and still making it very difficult for air and moisture to penetrate through it. So, to achieve successful gardening, one has to know the correct state and conditions of the soil.

Wet clay is ordinarily difficult to garden with since it’s heavy but dry clay is smooth and soft and as such, easier to manage. Knowing these characteristics can surely help for gardeners especially in spring and autumn seasons when clay soil is dry. Compost or mulch can be added to the top soil every autumn season to avoid the freezing of the soil in winters. Compost or mulch makes the soil more ideal for planting by ensuring it has better drainage and air flow.

  1. Silty Soil

Silty soil is composed of clay, mud, or small rocks deposited by a lake or river. It is made up of much smaller particles compared to sandy soil and when moistened it forms a soapy slick. For this reason, silty soil is extremely smooth and since it retains a lot of water, it is fairly fertile. Regardless of its good characteristics, silty soil is deficient of nutrients in comparison to other soil types.

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Because of the characteristic of silty soil, it can be easily compacted by the weight of heavy overlying materials. For this reason, if it is in your garden you should avoid walking on it which can lead to its compaction, which may require aeration. Silty soil is perfect for crop farming as the particles in silty soil are miniscule.

  1. Peaty soil

Peaty soil is under normal circumstances dark brown but it can as well be black in color. Peaty soil has large quantities of organic material and is rich is water, which makes it one of the best soil types for plant growth. However, the soil needs to be drained first due to its high nutrient and water content.

Because of its characteristic of high nutrient and water content, peaty soil is able to keep plants healthy even in dry weather and shields the plants from harm during rainy periods. The water content in peaty soil is to a small degree acidic but is ideal for controlling plant diseases and can be utilized to balance the pH level of other soil types.

  1. Sandy soil

Sandy soils are pale yellowish to yellowish brown in color and are one of the poorest types of soil. Sandy soil is composed of loose coral or rock grain materials and has a dry and gritty touch. Sandy soil is also grouped as one of the soils composed of the largest particles which prevent it from retaining water.

As such, sandy soils loose water content very fast which makes it very difficult for plant roots to establish. Thus, plants do not get the opportunity of using the nutrients and water in sandy soil more efficiently as they are speedily carried away by runoff.  This is what makes sandy soil the poorest for supporting any kind of plant growth.

  1. Chalky soil

These are the types of soils found in limestone beds with deeply rooted chalk deposits. Chalky soils are extremely dry and are known to impede the germination of plants. They are composed of or containing or resembling calcium carbonate or calcite and characteristically have the color of chalk.

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Accordingly, chalky soil is entirely imperfect for crop farming or plant growth as it presents a lot of difficulties to work with. It has high lime content but low water content, which gives it a pH level of 7.5. This means the chalky soil is basic and it normally leads to yellow and stunted plants.

Photo by: tpsdave

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