To cultivate the garden with good results, it is important know the land available it allows us to know what the strengths are and where there are gaps that we can improve by cultivating, especially with tillage and fertilization.
Agricultural soil can be classified according to different parameters : For example, it can be acidic or basic, depending on the pH value, or it can be clayey, loamy, sandy or loamy depending on the texture. The texture or grain size is one of the most important parameters.
The objective of this article is identify the main soil types and learn to recognize them and work with them in the best way. Next, we will discover the main characteristics of the different floors that we can find.
Horticultural plants are generally adaptable and can grow in very different substrates, however when they find the ideal soil they grow better and offer better yields in terms of quantity and quality. For those who want to practice organic farming, good soil management is doubly important: it will help prevent disease and mold problems.
Understand the type of terrain
Assess the fabric
Rocky or gravelly soil
A fundamental characteristic of soil for agricultural purposes is the fabric. this is a physical parameter that refers to the average size of land plots in the countryside . A soil can be composed mainly of coarse or fine particles, depending on which it will react very differently to tillage and have a different ability to hold water and nutrients.
We define the coarsest sand particles, the finest clay particles and the intermediate silt particles.
Based on this, we identify four main types of terrain:
- clay soil (fine grain)
- silty land (medium grit)
- sandy soil (large grain)
- free floor (where particles of various grains are present, but none prevail)
Of course, a soil is not exclusively composed of particles of a certain size, the texture is estimated according to the average size of the particles. . Therefore, clay soil can be very clayey or low clayey, tending to be loamy.
There are soils that are “on the border” of two characters: for example, clay loam, sandy loam, silty clay…
Texture is a very important factor because many important features depend on it for cultivated plants: the capacity of the soil to retain water and nutrients, its tendency to compact or loosen, root permeability,… This is why it is essential to know what type of soil you cultivated.
In addition to weaving the earth can be classified in other ways:
- Stony or rocky ground (strong presence of stones).
- gravel floor (like sandy, with modest pebbles)
- peat soil (composed of a large proportion of peat).
- limestone soil (with a strong presence of calcium, calcium carbonate above 20%).
A separate classification is given by the pH value of the soil:
- medium acid (low pH, below 5.5)
- neutral ground (neutral pH, around 6)
- alkaline or basic soil (basic pH, greater than 7.5)
Below we first look at how to get an idea of the type of terrain, then we go into more detail about the different terrains, studying their characteristics.
Find the soil type
A home garden grown as a hobby does not necessarily require the soil to be tested in a laboratory . The analysis is a sure way to know what type of soil you have and it is very interesting, but it involves a significant cost (from 50 to 300 euros depending on the depth).
Fortunately there is several ways to get an idea of the characteristics of your soil for yourself , free. However, if large areas of land are cultivated for profit, it is important and beneficial to invest in professional testing by taking soil samples in the laboratory.
At first sight we can already observe some characteristics an expert eye assesses the soil according to its compaction and its behavior during rain. Obviously a stony or gravelly ground stands out at first glance by the quantity of pebbles, whereas a peat soil is dark especially on the surface, soft to the touch and of a lumpy consistency (it should be noted that the vegetable residues are not completely decomposed).
An empirical method of assessing the particle size on your own is carried out with a simple glass, while the pH is detected with a simple litmus paper. For more information on substrate evaluation, see the article dedicated to soil analysis .
Assess the fabric
A first rapid assessment is to squeeze a handful of soil from our future garden : if it compacts and then disintegrates with difficulty, we are dealing with clay soil, conversely, if a block cannot form, the soil will be loose and sandy.
To better assess the texture of the soil, you can also do a simple test using a glass or a transparent jar.
- Take some soil samples , choosing them from various places in the garden. The soil should not be taken from the surface but below the level, 5 to 20 cm deep.
- Mix the soil to get an average of our soil.
- Put the earth in a transparent pot, in which we add water. The terrain should be about a third of the volume.
- stir vigorously .
- Let it rest for a day.
- Observe the jar and the layers that have formed : Sand, silt and clay will be deposited separately in layers. We will distinguish the layer of sand at the bottom, the clay and by observing we will be able to understand how our soil is composed. We will see the layer of sand deposited in our pot, a little more above the silt and clay. From there we can figure out if it is more clayey soil instead of loamy or sandy soil.
Also very useful to understand if our garden has acidic or basic soil, this can always be done by taking soil samples from the garden and testing them with litmus paper, easily available in pharmacies. I wrote an article dedicated to this subject.