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Basic Guide for Knowing Your Yard’s Soil Type

Knowing the type of soil you have in your yard will help you make the best gardening decisions for your landscape. Whether you want a lush garden full of dazzling variety or a simple, healthy yard with low maintenance, use this basic guide for knowing your yard’s soil type.

1. Six Soil Types

While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes 12 soil texture classifications, knowing six soil types works for home gardening purposes. The USDA identifies soil texture based on its percentage composition of sand, silt, and clay.

The soil texture can affect how much water the soil holds, the chemistry of the soil, and the soil structure. Here are six soil types to know:

  1. Peaty soil: damp, spongy, low in nutrients
  2. Clay soil: sticky when wet, hard when dry, drains poorly
  3. Chalky soil: large grains, stony, shallow, dries quickly
  4. Loamy soil: retains moisture, nutrient-rich, fine texture
  5. Sandy soil: gritty, drains easily, generally holds fewer nutrients in spring due to raining
  6. Silty soil: soft, holds moisture, nutrient-rich

2. Touch Test

A simple way to tell what kind of soil you have is to feel it. Pick up a handful of soil and roll it in your hands.

If the soil feels:

  • Spongy, it’s peaty soil.
  • Sticky and slick when wet but still holds its shape, you’ve got clay soil.
  • Grainy with lots of stones, it’s chalky soil.
  • Smooth and holds its shape for a short period, you’ve got loamy soil.
  • Gritty, and the grains slip easily through your fingers, you have sandy soil.
  • Slippery, somewhat soapy, and doesn’t clump, you’ve got silty soil.

3. Test Kits

The final tip in this basic guide for knowing your yard’s soil type is to use a soil test kit if you want more detailed information. Depending on your kit, you can learn your soil’s nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and pH levels. Knowing more about the presence of these nutrients and your soil’s acidity can help you decide what fertilizers to use. Use the kits throughout the growing season to ensure efficient nutrient uptake.

Once you know your soil type, find out more about how you can help your plants thrive. Soil provides the means for plants to obtain nutrients, air, and water, and it anchors plants’ root systems. Knowing your soil type is essential for properly watering your lawn and knowing the kind of plants that will thrive in the soil. Basically, if you know your soil type, you’re well on your way to a beautiful, thriving yard.

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Written by Logan Voss

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