How To Identify Your Soil

When it comes to selecting plants that will thrive in your garden, it is important to know what type of soil you are working with. Different plants are better suited to different types of soil.

The six main types of soil are silty, sandy, peaty, loamy, chalky, and clay soil. In the UK, the three most common types are silt, sand, and clay.

With varying pH levels, soil can also be acidic, alkaline, or neutral. This also has an effect on the type of plants you should opt for.

Read on to find out more about some of the most common types of soil and how to easily identify your soil type, so that you can get the best out of it.

Identify your soil type

You can usually tell the soil type just by looking at it and feeling it.

Take a small sample of soil, put it in a saucer, and add water to it. Stir it with your finger until it turns into a stiff paste, then roll or knead it in your hands. Shape it into a ball and allow it to sit for a short while until it has dried out a little bit.

Hold the ball between your thumb and forefinger and apply pressure. If it crumbles and falls apart easily, it is likely to be sandy soil. If it holds a bit longer before breaking, it is likely to be silty soil. If the ball is more solid and squidges when pressed, rather than crumbling or breaking, it is likely to be clay soil.

If you have a large border or area where you are wanting to plant, then you will need to sample several areas in case the soil type varies.

Learn more about each soil type and their advantages and disadvantages below, as well as discovering different plants that are well-suited to each type.

Sandy soil

Sandy soil warms up quickly in spring but dries out and loses nutrients rapidly when it rains. Add organic matter to sandy soil to retain moisture and replenish lost nutrients.

Sandy soil is a light, stoney soil that is gritty to the touch. It is free draining and easy to work. Star jasmine, lavender, and buddleja plants are well-suited to sandy soils.

Clay soil

Clay soil is typically wet and cold in winter and retains moisture. When wet, it feels lumpy, slimy and sticky. In summer, it becomes very hard, dry and cracked.

Clay soil is heavy, does not drain well, and is hard to dig, but is very fertile and high in nutrients. Flowering plants that thrive in clay soil include roses, foxgloves, and daylilies.

Silty soil

Although silty soil is free draining, it still retains moisture well and is more fertile than sandy soil. Silty soil is made from fine particles and is smooth to the touch. Snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils will grow well in silty soil.

For professional advice on selecting the best bulbs for your garden, please contact our knowledgeable team at Boston Bulbs by calling 01775 769333, or email us at

The Boston Bulb Company has over 40 years of experience in supplying only the finest quality horticultural products from farmers and growers throughout the UK and Europe.

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