Soil texture is governed by the size and make-up of the particles contained within the soil. Proper soil texture is needed for adequate root growth, water, oxygen retention and drainage. Clay soil has very small, flat particles. When it gets wet, these particles pack tightly together, slowing root growth and drainage. Roots can’t breathe because there is no room for oxygen.
Sandy soils have larger particles, and permit good aeration and drainage, although you have to water your plants much more often as water is not held well. Nutrients are also easily flushed out. Loamy soil is ideal for growing plants; it consists of a mixture of clay, silt and sand. This combination of different size soil particles drains well, has good aeration and water retention and holds nutrient.
Creating the perfect, loamy soil
To create the perfect soil mixture for your garden, you will need to create a loamy soil. Soils can be amended in two ways, mineral and organic. Mineral amendments such as perlite or vermiculite do not alter the Ph of your soil, nor contain many nutrients. They mainly change the make-up of the soil, by changing the particle size. Particle size can be changed by added things like Vermiculite or Perlite, which both increase aeration and drainage. This is especially beneficial in clay soil, which tends to lack in drainage. Peat Moss and Coco Peat can increase water retention in sandy soil.
Organic amendments contain carbon, which assist soil in breaking down through bacteria. Organic amendments are achieved by adding compost to your garden. Most gardens benefit from the addition of compost, as compost encourages organisms, such as worms, to move in. Worms travel through the soil, aerating it, and leaving nutrient behind. Compost, when added to sandy soils, increases water retention. In clay soil, it allows water to penetrate the soil more readily, thereby enhancing drainage.
Good compost takes time to fully finish its decomposing action. You will need to leave it for at least a year, as it can rob nitrogen from the rest of your soil if the mix is still decomposing. A well composted, fertile soil is a rich, dark colour, and adds nitrogen and other beneficial nutrients to your garden. All sorts of things can be used in your compost pile, such as leaves, lawn clippings and branches. Fresh lawn clippings are packed full of nitrogen, and are great both in your compost heap and around your plants as mulch.