Iden­tify your soil type

Gardeners' World - - Healthier Soil -

Acid or al­ka­line?

A sim­ple pH test with a shop-bought kit will tell you whether your soil is acid or al­ka­line. Both are ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing healthy plants – the trick is to grow the plants that like your con­di­tions, and if you are on chalk and must have rhodo­den­drons and camel­lias, grow them in pots of lime-free er­i­ca­ceous com­post and wa­ter with rain­wa­ter. What’s the tex­ture?

Sandy or grav­elly soil will feel gritty when it is run through your fin­gers and dries out rapidly af­ter rain­fall, mak­ing cul­ti­va­tion easy. But it quickly loses nu­tri­ents, so adding bulky or­ganic mat­ter reg­u­larly is vi­tal to hold on to both wa­ter and nu­tri­ents.

Clay soil binds to­gether in clods when dry, and when it is wet it will re­veal a pol­ished sur­face when rubbed. Squeeze it into a ball and it will re­main tight. It is fer­tile and re­tains wa­ter. Clay with flints is par­tic­u­larly hard to cul­ti­vate.

Loam – ev­ery gar­dener’s ideal – has a mod­er­ate clay con­tent so that when it is damp it will hold to­gether when squeezed into a ball, but the ball can be eas­ily crum­bled and bro­ken apart. Peaty soils from the fens tend to be dark, al­most black, and will be springy when squeezed. Adding sharp sand and grit im­proves their drainage.

Clay soil sticks to­gether and makes it dif­fi­cult for air to get to plant roots

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