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Soil texture - what kind have you got ?
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gil
Downsizer Moderator


Joined: 08 Jun 2005
Posts: 18367

PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 08 12:26 pm    Post subject: Soil texture - what kind have you got ?  Reply with quote    

What kind of soil have you got ?
Sandy, clayey, silty ?
This is really useful stuff to know, as it has all kinds of implications for how you work with it. what you might need to add, what will grow well, and what won't.

Knowing this information really changed my understanding of how to work my ground, and the growing has improved year on year.

There's still the interaction between location, weather and climate to factor in, and yes, each year produces more (usually unwelcome) surprises, but I have a far better understanding of what has gone wrong, why, and how I might sort it in the future.

Hand-texturing your soil

You can do this by hand, and it's quite easy.
Do it for topsoil, and also for subsoil (which may be different)

It involves digging down at least 6", and spreading a shovelful or several on a flattish surface (could be the ground)

Then grab a handful, and start playing with it.

This is how to analyse soil texture in the form of a questionnaire

The full DEFRA version, with the flowchart on page 3

and here's a US version that includes the useful pyramid diagram, but bear in mind that US soil classifications are different from UK

Simpler RHS version

Hope this is useful.
If you have queries or comments, please feel free to add below

Actually, we could have a discussion about different soil textures in this thread.

Green Man



Joined: 23 Jul 2006
Posts: 5272
Location: Rural Scotland.
PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 08 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I'm on very very heavy blue marine clay. Very hard to work, very hungry and gobbles up humus, but holds on tightly to nutrients. It yields well during dry summers and grass never burns.

wellington womble



Joined: 08 Nov 2004
Posts: 14747
Location: East Midlands
PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 08 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Sticky, is what kind I've got. I'm thinking of building an oven with it!

jamila169



Joined: 07 Sep 2008
Posts: 218
Location: North Derbyshire
PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 08 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

We've got full on, heavy sticky silty clay at home, not nice at all, even grass struggles - on the plot it's much lighter, more open and loamy, it's down the hill from us on the valley side (looking at soil map for our area, we're sat on a random slice of clay and surrounded by the good stuff)

rivergirl



Joined: 13 Mar 2008
Posts: 30

PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 08 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

sandy, dead jealous of people on clay soil as I need some to build a clay oven

rivergirl



Joined: 13 Mar 2008
Posts: 30

PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 08 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

sandy, dead jealous of people on clay soil as I need some to build a clay oven

Mrs Fiddlesticks



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 10460

PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 08 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

we're on sandy - the village is situated on a Coraliean (sp?) ridge which is reknown to be fertile rich stuff. There were market gardens and a famous rose nursery in the village years ago and the allotments are over a 100 years old

woodsprite



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 2943
Location: North Herefordshire
PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 08 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

We're currently on a silurian rock bed with approx 2 inches (less in places) of light, useless soil. Nothing grows here, even the usual rock garden type plants die. If it's not in a pot or a raised bed, it ain't growing.

mochyn



Joined: 21 Dec 2004
Posts: 24548
Location: mid-Wales
PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 08 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

We have lovely fertile soil: clayey, but not unworkable. Over the past 6 years we've put a lot of organic matter into it and it's getting easier to work each year. Although it seems logical to put grit or sand on a clay soil to lighten it the best thing you can add is compost, leaf mold or muck.

cinders



Joined: 04 Jun 2007
Posts: 2437
Location: norfolk The daft old bat club
PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 08 7:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

we have sandy soil.We have peat soil in the fens wish it was in my garden

Beki



Joined: 12 May 2008
Posts: 128
Location: North Kent
PostPosted: Mon Jan 19, 09 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

i'm not 100% sure... will have to get out into the veg patch tomorrow and have a test!

Bulgarianlily



Joined: 01 Jun 2008
Posts: 1667
Location: South West Mountains of Bulgaria
PostPosted: Mon Jan 19, 09 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I am on the weirdest soil I have ever seen. I suppose technically it is a sandy silt loam. But the main constituent is mica, gold coloured mica. When ever water hits it, it washes off the silt, and leaves gold glitter behind. Your tools glitter, your hands glitter, your wellies glitter. We have about six inches of workable stuff and then you hit the solid untouched hard silt, that has to be chipped out to make it workable. It took two tractors and a horse and plough to make our veg gardens (the village decide the first tractor wasn't trying and came back with another one) It doesn't retain water, and clearly needs a lot of good organic stuff worked into it. But it grows some lovely tomatoes. Because of the colour, the locals call this area 'the golden land'.

Mrs Fiddlesticks



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 10460

PostPosted: Mon Jan 19, 09 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Bulgarianlily wrote:
I am on the weirdest soil I have ever seen. I suppose technically it is a sandy silt loam. But the main constituent is mica, gold coloured mica. When ever water hits it, it washes off the silt, and leaves gold glitter behind. Your tools glitter, your hands glitter, your wellies glitter. .


sounds lovely! (pictures?)

oldish chris



Joined: 14 Jun 2006
Posts: 4148
Location: Comfortably Wet Southport
PostPosted: Mon Jan 19, 09 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

This post is purely to make Downsizers who are trying to put life into poor soils feel sick.

My allotment is on silty peat. It is the remains of a swamp (local vernacular "mere"). You know that stuff you get in garden centres in big bags that Monty Don says you mustn't use but ain't half good for growing seeds, that is more or less what my allotment is like.

You've heard of "droughts", apparently not on this allotment site. It is artificially drained. When we get a dry spell, they switch the pumps off!

Strict rule prohibiting bonfires in summer though!

gil
Downsizer Moderator


Joined: 08 Jun 2005
Posts: 18367

PostPosted: Mon Jan 19, 09 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

@ oldish chris : does your soil have any drawbacks ?

I ask, also because I have silt loam that is almost pure silt but with high organic matter [almost but not quite peaty], and it's difficult to work with. Very fertile, but.....

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