Mastering the Basics

What soil type do I have?

Taking the time to know what soil you have will save you time and money. This knowledge enables you to select plants which will thrive in your borders. But you can relax, because the Soto collections have been designed to include plants that tolerate most soil types.

Different soil types

In this section we run through the characteristics of the different soil types, how to identify them and how to improve your soil.

Sandy Soil

Sandy soil is easy to dig and is free draining so it can dry out quickly, which means that nutrients can be washed away. This soil type is gritty to the touch and is easy to plant in. 

If you rub a small ball of damp soil between your fingertips, sandy soil will crumble away.

Water sandy soil little and often. In late winter, add a layer of compost to seal in moisture.

Clay Soil

Clay soil is sticky and can be hard to dig. It can become waterlogged easily when wet and will be hard and crack when dry. Clay soil retains water well so it requires less watering and is high in nutrients.  

When you roll a small ball of damp soil between your fingertips, clay soil will form a firm ball.

Turn in grit and compost to clay soil to improve drainage.

Loam soil

Loam soil is a mix of clay and sand. When you rub it between your fingertips, a shape will begin to form and then fall apart when you stop pressing.

Try not to interfere with loamy soil too much; you don’t want to disturb the structure of the soil or lose any nutrients.

Chalky Soil

Chalky soil is stony and drains well. This can make plants deficient in nutrients, which turns leaves yellow.

If you were to put chalky soil into a jar of vinegar it would fizz a little, because it is slightly alkaline.

Chalky soil is often shallow, so add in a top layer of compost, about 10cm. Apply to replace lost nutrients.

Silty soil

Silty soil drains well and retains moisture. It is easier to dig than clay and more nutrient-dense than sandy soil. Silty soil can become compacted, which means that roots have less space to breathe. Silty soil can wear away easily.

If you rub a small ball of damp soil between your fingertips, silty soil will crumble away.

Add grit and compost in the autumn to maximise drainage and air flow.

Peaty soil

Peaty soils are wet and rich in organic materials. This soil is acidic so nutrients find it hard to break down.

You can’t roll peaty soil between your fingertips because it is too wet.

Add grit to improve drainage and feed the soil to improve the nutrients level.

Summary

There are different types of soil in your garden, but the majority require very similar care steps. Follow the Soto planting and watering guides to get the most from your soil. The Soto collections have been designed for most soil types, as long as you prepare your soil correctly before planting.

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