We have listed six main soil types that are common to UK gardens. Smaller gardens usually have similar soil types but larger gardens can have a mixture of soil types. This is an important factor when considering taking a PH test.
Sandy soil has a gritty texture and is formed from weathered rocks such as limestone, quartz, granite and shale. Sandy soils are prone to over-draining and can dry out in the hot summer months. In wet weather the soil can often have problems retaining moisture and nutrients. One way to resolve the moisture content of the soil and improve the nutrient content is to increase the organic matter in the soil using manure, leaf mould, peat, green waste, soil improver, recycled green waste, etc. Fertiliser can also play an important part too.
Silty soil is an easy soil to work with and is considered to be among the most fertile of soils. Itís composition is that of minerals (predominantly quartz) and fine organic particles. It has more nutrients than sandy soil but still has a very good drainage. The soil is dark in colour and when dry has a smooth texture. Silty soil is good at retaining moisture. Ways to improve silty soil are almost the same as with sandy soil, by adding manure and recycled green waste etc.
Clay soil is not easy to work with especially when water logged in winter periods. Clay soils are composed of very fine particles with few air spaces, leaving them very hard to manage. Clay soil often drains very poorly. In spring time and winter time water logging can be a hazard. Blue or grey coloured clay soils have particularly poor aeriation and must therefore be loosened in order to support healthy growth. Red coloured clay soil indicates a good level of aeriation present, a looser texture and is better draining. One way to improve clay soil is to add organic matter such as manure, peat, leaf mould, recycled green waste, etc. These all improve the structure of the soil. Adding a sharp, gritty sand can also help as it allows the frost, in the winter months, to break up the soil. If drainage is really poor then land drains are worth considering but this would still have to coincide with an improved surface drainage layer to allow the water to permeate into the land drainage, which is normally agricultural pipe (see image below).
Loamy soil is the best soil. Loamy soil is a combination of roughly 40% sand, 40% silt and 20% clay. Loamy soils can range from easily workable fertile soils, full of organic matter, to densely packed soil. They characteristically drain well yet retain moisture and are nutrient rich, making them ideal for cultivation.
Peaty soils have high acidity which inhibits the process of decomposition. They contain more organic matter than other soils. Peaty soils have a tendency to retain water, especially in the winter months. Peaty soils also contain fewer nutrients. To improve this increase the amount of gritty sharp sand, giving nutrients with a slower release, and fertiliser or liquid feed are recommended. Improve the drainage system if necessary with land drains. These will help if the ground is sodden in the winter months. The end result will be the excellent quality of plants that are grown!
Chalky soil is usually a light brown colour and contains a large amount of stones or varying sizes. The soil is high in alkaline which will affect acid loving plants. The soil dries out quickly in the summer months and has a tendency to block trace elements, such as iron and magnesium. Plants canít grow well without these elements and so poor growth and yellowing leaves is evident. Chalky soil is very poor quality soil and requires regular and substantial additions of fertilizer and other soil improvers.