Gardening Tips: How to Learn Your Garden’s Soil Type

Whether you’re a farmer planting miles of crops or you’re looking to start a small garden in your backyard, one of the first steps is learning what kind of soil you’ll be planting in. The three main types of soil are sand, silt, and clay. Each holds nutrients and water differently. To give your garden the best chance to flourish, try this trick to determine your soil type:

After your soil has settled to the bottom of your water bottle, you’ll know what percentage of your soil is sand, silt, and clay. Just like Convoy of Hope Agriculture participants, you can use this information to learn which things will grow and thrive best in your region.

SAND

Soil with a lot of sand can drain water more efficiently than other soil types, which can lead to the loss of nutrients. This also means the soil will warm faster in the spring. Sandy soil is best for growing vegetable root crops like carrots and potatoes, and bulbs like tulips and sun roses. Other crops that are good with this soil type include:

  • Lettuce
  • Collard greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries

SILT

Silty soil drains well but retains more water than sandy soil. This soil type is great for shrubs, climbers, grasses, and perennials. Trees, vegetables, and fruits that love moisture can also do well in silty soil, but make sure they have adequate drainage. Other crops that are good to plant in this soil type include:

  • Blackberries
  • Beach roses
  • Raspberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Hops
  • Grapes
  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Ginger
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

CLAY

Clay soil holds the most water, which means it will also be the slowest to warm when spring arrives. Like silty soil, clay soil works great for perennials and shrubs. This soil also works well for summer crop vegetables like corn and ornamental trees, such as lavender, cacti, and cherry blossoms. Other crops that are good with this soil type include:

  • Aster
  • Flowering quince
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Grapes 
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Peaches

For more information on determining your soil type, click here to download a resource from Virginia State University. To learn more about how Convoy of Hope trains individuals in our Agriculture program, visit convoyofhope.org/ag.

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Agriculture