Soil Structure

Since soil structure (or soil texture) affects how easily roots can penetrate the soil, how well water drains through the soil, and how available air and nutrients are in the soil, . . .

it is most important that once you have found the perfect location for your garden, you  do a soil analysis so that you can begin getting your soil ready for planting.

You should do this testing for soil structure as early in the spring as possible, as soon as the ground is dry enough,  so that you will have at least a month for the amendment product (especially manure) to settle in before it’s time to plant.

Your aim is to have a healthy garden soil, in other words, a soil structure which is roughly  half solid material (mineral particles and organic matter) and half pore space (occupied by water, air, living creatures and plant roots).

There are three basic soil structures: heavy clay, silt, or sand.

Clay has the finest mineral particles and sand has the  coarsest.

1. The first type of soil structure is Clay.

Clay soils drain poorly or not at all and tend to crust over as it dries, blocking air and water.  When pure clay soil is extremely dry, you will hardly be able to make a dent in it even with a shovel.  When extremely wet, it becomes soggy, slippery,  and slimy looking.   It’s difficult to walk through it, for you sink a little with each step you take; the soil seems to want to keep you stuck in it.

However, clay soil is very rich; actually potato farmers prefer this type of soil (amended of course with manure) since clay soil stays moist longer than sandy soil.  The one advantage to clay soils is that because  it drains slowly,  nutrients don’t get leached out as quickly.

On the other hand because  it compacts easily,  it has very little space for air, and plant roots don’t always survive because of this lack of oxygen. Thus it is necessary to add amendments to permit more air and oxygen go get to the plant roots.

2. The second type of soil structure is Silt.

High- silt soils tend to compact, preventing deep root penetration.

3. The third type of soil structure is Sand.

On the opposite end of the texture spectrum is the sandy soil.   Sandy soil generally drains quickly so tends to lose nutrients quickly.

2 types of soil structure - clay and sandBefore preparation and cultivation, clay soil forms hard lumps when dry while sandy soil feels gritty on the fingers.

The aim is to recognize your soil texture and then choose the proper amendment so that your soil structure allows  your plant roots to get the  oxygen, water, and nutrients  conducive to lush growth.

To reiterate — soil structure refers to the texture of the soil (the way soil particles are bound together)  and to the proportion of solids and pore space.

This video will illustrate quite clearly the three different textures of soil (soil structure).

Testing for Soil Structure

Soil Structure Test 1: Basic Test

 

The most basic test is to pick up a handful of moist soil, roll it into a ball, and squeeze the ball lightly.

A.  If the soil feels slippery and your fingers leave an impression in the surface, you are dealing with clay soil.

B. If the soil feels gritty and forms a loose ball when you squeeze it, there’s  significant sand content.

C. If the soil feels greasy, then you’re dealing with a high proportion of silt.

D. Finally, if the soil crumbles into large particles or is difficult to roll into a ball, it has a well-balanced texture characteristic of loam.  In that case you’ve hit pay dirt, for loamy soils are excellent for gardening.

Soil Structure Test 2: Visually Compare

Another test which will help you determine the texture of your soil is to visually compare the proportions of sand, silt, and clay.

To do this, you first half fill an ordinary mason quart jar with your soil then add water to the top of the jar. Securely close the jar with a cover and shake until the water and the soil have become thoroughly mixed. Then set it somewhere for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, check the layers:  the sand proportion will be at the bottom, the silt will hover in the middle, and the clay will be towards the top.  By seeing what you have the most of, you can get a rough idea of whether you are dealing with mostly clay, silt, or sandy soil.

Soil Structure Test 3: Soil Drainage Test

If you click on the article Determining Soil Drainage which is on the blog PlantsAndGardeningTips.com, you will learn a third method which was often used by seasoned gardeners. This method is a quick and sure way to determine whether you should add a lot of  compost or amendments or you can get away with only a little more to get proper drainage.  Please be patient when loading this file.  It might take time to load.

To better identify what type of and how much organic matter should be added to your soil, be sure to use one or all three methods to identify whether your soil structure is clay, sand, or silt; then you can begin adding your organic matter or fertilizer.

Happy Gardening!
Marcie

Bio: A gardener since the 70’s, Marcie Snyder knows the value of growing your own vegetables and plants organically. To help the budding gardener, Marcie offers information on four blogs (each one dealing with different aspects of gardening) plus a FREE ebook “The Complete Guide to Organic Vegetable Gardening” (OVG GUIDE). She also offers a very comprehensive step-by-step ebook detailing 4 methods of composting. Check for more  at http://organicvegetablegardeningguide.com/blog

Please note: You can use my articles on your blog as long as you use it as is without changing any of the text and you include my bio with my website link.

14 Responses to “Soil Structure”

  1. […] into the soil. To do this, one needs to understand soil texture. Find more information/ideas on how to deal with soil textures!Author : Marcie SnyderE-mail : […]

  2. […] Author: Marcie SnyderA gardener for years, Marcie has learned the value of soil amendment to put nutrients back into the soil. To do this, one needs to understand soil texture. Find more information/ideas on how to deal with soil textures! […]

  3. […] After 24 hours, check the layers: the sand proportion will be at the bottom, the silt will hover in the middle, and the clay will be towards the top. By seeing what you have the most of, you can get a rough idea of whether your soil texture is clay, silt, or sandy soil. A gardener for years, Marcie has learned the value of soil amendment to put nutrients back into the soil. To do this, one needs to understand soil texture. Find more information/ideas on how to deal with soil textures! […]

  4. […] into the soil. To do this, one needs to understand soil texture. Find more information/ideas on how to deal with soil textures!Article […]

  5. […] After 24 hours, check the layers: the sand proportion will be at the bottom, the silt will hover in the middle, and the clay will be towards the top. By seeing what you have the most of, you can get a rough idea of whether your soil texture is clay, silt, or sandy soil.A gardener for years, Marcie has learned the value of soil amendment to put nutrients back into the soil. To do this, one needs to understand soil texture. Find more information/ideas on how to deal with soil textures! […]

  6. Hi, good post. I have been wondering about this topic,so thanks for writing. I’ll definitely be coming back to your blog.

  7. 5-IAI says:

    hey I loved your website I hope to see more blogs of this quality.

  8. Good article Thank you so much

  9. We appreciate you the recommendation! I may give it a try.

  10. Backlinks says:

    I’m impressed!!! Really informative blog post here my friend. I just wanted to comment & say keep up the quality work. I’ve bookmarked your blog just now and I’ll be back to read more in the future my friend! Also nice colors on the layout, it’s really easy on the eyes.

  11. One again, your idea is very

    good.thank you!very much.

  12. I have come back to your blog serveral times. The additional posts are incredibly intriguing and interesting. I wanted to signup for your rss feed, so I can keep up to date of your recent editorials.

  13. Great article, I think you covered everything there.

  14. Thanks very much for this specialized and amazing guide. I will not hesitate to propose the website to anybody who requires guide about this subject.