If you’re a gardener or a landscaping aficionado, you probably know that your soil can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to getting plants to thrive. The first step to making it a friend instead of a foe is knowing what soil type you have. Once you know what you’re up against, you can begin to improve it.
If you have mostly sandy soil, it means that the particles are large and coarse. There is a lot of space between the particles, so water drains through easily, causing it to drop right through the soil to a depth where most root systems cannot reach it. Even after a good rainfall, your plants will be dry and thirsty. Sandy soils also cannot store nutrients and have very few naturally-occurring nutrients. This means that even when you add fertilizers to your soil, they will likely wash away quickly.
Clay soil is comprised of the smallest particles. This means that they have very little space between them and hold a lot of water. In fact, the biggest problem with clay soil is that it does not drain well. This makes it heavy, wet, and often difficult for plant roots to push through it. When the sun dries out clay soil, it forms a hard, cracked surface. One benefit of clay soil, however, is that it does hold nutrients well and has a lot of naturally-occurring nutrients that your plants will love. Because of its abundance of nutrients, it is especially important to test clay soil’s pH levels and adjust as necessary.
Silty soil particles are in between the size of sand particles and clay particles. This means that it often does not require as aggressive treatment to improve it as sandy and clay soils do. The biggest problems with it are that, like sandy soil, it drains too well and does not hold moisture where plants can access it.
Regardless of your soil type – sandy, clay, or silty – it can be improved by tilling in compost at least once a year. Compost adds organic matter to the soil, solving many of the problems caused by the soil particles themselves being too large or too small. To add compost to your garden or flower bed, scatter a 2″-3″ layer of well-decomposed compost to the top of your soil and rototill it in deeply. The DR Roto-Hog Power Tiller is a great tool for this task because it allows you to easily change your tilling depth right from your towing vehicle with the remote control. Spread a 1″-2″ layer of compost on your garden and till it as deeply as it will go (about 8″), then spread another layer on and till to a shallower depth. This will give you an even distribution of organic material within your soil, and ensure that your plants are happy and healthy!