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Learn about different soil types and the amendments you can add to improve the structure, drainage and moisture retention of your soil.
There are three primary types of soil, determined by the amount of clay, silt or sand particles present.
The soil in your landscape will likely not be ideal initially, but soil amendments can help you improve it, allowing your plants to thrive.
Soil amendments improve the physical nature of soil. They reduce compaction, aerating the soil to allow water and nutrients to more easily move through it and reach plant roots. Some soil amendments also add nutrients to the soil and help retain moisture.
Common organic soil amendments are listed below:
You can also find inorganic soil amendments:
Many gardeners choose to make their own soil amendment by composting. Read Composting 101: Benefits and How to Make Compost at Home for tips on creating this nutrient-rich amendment.
In addition to amendments for your existing soil, you can find packaged soil that helps you get the best results from your plants. Ready-to-use soil is designed to provide good water retention while allowing proper drainage. Potting mix is the best choice for potting or repotting. It should contain organic matter as well as elements for aeration and moisture retention, such as perlite and vermiculite. Charcoal may also be an ingredient. Some potting mixes contain fertilizer. You can find mixes designed for specific plants, including African violets, orchids and cacti. All-inclusive soil mixes contain various blends of premium potting mix, fertilizer, pest control and water retention elements. These mixes are excellent for container gardens and planting beds.
When using soil amendments or packaged soil, follow package directions regarding proper clothing, protective equipment, application procedures and safety precautions.
You can determine some qualities of your soil by observing its consistency and how well it drains, but a soil test tells you less obvious information. Test your soil with a home kit, or send soil samples to your local Cooperative Extension office. Results tell you what nutrients your soil needs as well as the soil pH level, allowing you to adjust for your plants. See Test and Improve Your Soil for more information on soil testing.