Soil Type and Soil Moisture

Soil type can be important to consider when choosing perennials, trees, or shrubs for your area. Many plants can tolerate a variety of soil types, but some require specific conditions in order to survive. Making a few observations can help you choose the right plants for the location.

Soil Types

Soils can generally be classified as sandy, clay, or loam. Sandy soils, comprised of mostly large soil particles, are light, loosely packed, and drain easily. Clay soils, comprised of mostly small soil particles, are dense or heavy, tightly packed, and drain poorly. Loam or “mesic” soils are an intermediate type between sand and clay, which contain a variety of sizes of soil particles, provide good moisture holding capacity and drainage, and tend to be very fertile.

How to Determine Soil Type

Rub a small amount of moist soil between your thumb and fingers to feel its texture. A clay soil will be slick and smooth, whereas a sandy soil will be gritty and crumbly. A loam soil will be intermediate, feeling somewhat gritty, yet sticks together easily.

How to Determine Soil Moisture

The amount of moisture a soil contains varies based on the soil type and the soil’s proximity to the groundwater level. Moist soils are relatively close to groundwater levels, and dry and medium soils are relatively far from them. Moist soils can be any soil type that holds water continuously throughout the growing season. Dry soils, including sandy soil or soil that incorporate gravel, drain easily and rarely accumulate standing water even after a heavy rain. Medium or mesic soils, including clay and loam, may accumulate standing water and retain it for one to three days following a heavy rain, depending on the amount and intensity of the rainfall.