Six Types of Topsoil and How They Affect Gardening

When it comes to successful gardening, nourishing your topsoil is very important. And with so many different types of dirt, it can be hard to figure out what nutrients to add.

1. Chalk

Chalk is found over limestone beds. When wet, chalk becomes quite sticky and hard to work with, but it also dries out very fast under the summer sun. Plant growth tends to be stunted due to the high pH of 7.5 as well as the lack of moisture.

In order to grow plans successfully in chalk, you need to add acid-rich minerals. Peat, compost and manure are great options. They help to neutralize the pH balance and improve water absorption.

2. Sand

Sand is made up of rocks. Sandy topsoil typically includes large particles of quartz and silica among other types of rocks. The rough texture and loose base allows water to drain quickly. Since sand doesn’t hold moisture, it’s virtually impossible for plants to take root and grow.

The best solution for growing plants in sandy soil is to choose plants that are found in desert conditions. Desert shrubs and cacti are great options as well as tulips and hibiscus.

3. Silt

The texture of silt is very similar to chalk. However, it can easily be compacted which helps to hold the moisture as well as nutrients in place. It’s actually not a bad option for plants that need a lot of moisture.

If you’re planning to grow plants that need less moisture, you’ll need to make sure that you loosen the silt periodically. This will help water to evaporate and air to get down to the plants roots.

4. Gravel

Gravel can actually benefit your garden if it’s used in the right amount. A small layer of gravel will help to hold topsoil in place as well as slow the evaporation of water. A thicker layer of gravel can actually limit the amount of water that makes its way into the soil – thus, keeping plants that need less water from drowning.

In addition to water retention and slow soil erosion, gravel helps to keep the garden warm during cool nights. The rocks absorb heat from the sun during the day, and often remain warm late into the night. Gardeners have found that they can plant earlier in the season if they use a generous amount of gravel to cover the dirt.

5. Clay

As one of the densest and heaviest types of soil, clay is incredibly hard on plants. It retains plenty of water and nutrients, but doesn’t allow air to penetrate the soil and make its way to the roots.

It’s best to plant richly colored flowers or other plants that require a lot of moisture when you’re working with clay. You’ll also find it easier to work during the spring and autumn when the clay is drier. Adding a layer of mulch over the clay will add some extra nutrients.

6. Loam

Loam is by far the best topsoil for gardening. Just about any plant can successfully grow in loam without major modifications. Loam is the perfect combination of silt, sand and clay. The sand allows air to penetrate the soil, while the silt and clay hold moisture. In fact, loam can be used as topsoil for year-round planting.