It is an easy mistake to think that all soil is the same and will do the same job. However, there are many different types of soil which have different characteristics and are therefore suited to different uses. They have different textures, components and PH levels which can all have an impact on the success of your gardening. Understanding the different types of soil and how they can affect you growing flower bulbs will ensure you plant under the correct conditions and allow you to get vibrant and beautiful displays which, when maintained correctly, will continue to bloom year after year. Here we discuss the different types of soil, how you can understand the difference, and how best to work with them.
Knowing which soil type you are working with is the first step. The soil type in the area you are planting in can also change within a short distance so do not assume it is all the same soil type. The best way to identify the type of soil you have is by touching it and rolling it in your hands. Sandy soil will feel gritty and you will be able to feel the sand particles with your fingers. You also will not be able to roll it into shape. Clay soil, on the other hand, is easily rolled into a sausage shape and is sticky when wet. Chalky or limestone soils can often have visible flecks of white chalk or stone in the soil which makes it easily identifiable.
Clay soils are a problem to some bulbs as it is a heavy. Although it is rich in nutrients, they drain slowly and this will cause problems for many bulbs, especially tulips, hyacinths and other spring flowering varieties that need to be as dry as possible whilst they are dormant. This is during the summer months when clay soil can become baked with visible cracking. This will also hinder the bulb from expanding and multiplying underground. Although clay soil is hard to work with, if you are a talented gardener, you can reap the rewards of this highly nutritious soil type.
Sandy soils are a lot lighter and dryer but are lower in nutrients. They are also relatively acidic. This type of soil drains a lot more quickly after rainfall or watering and warm up quickly in summer. Although it has some good qualities, because the soil is so light, the few nutrients the soil contains can actually be washed out by the rain.
Chalky soil can be light or heavy but is extremely alkaline so can only really house plants that are suitable for these conditions. Although it is not the case with all types of chalky soil, it tends to be low in nutrients and free draining, so it doesn't retain moisture well.
Silt soil is made up of fine particles but retains more moisture than sandy soil. This type of soil is fertile but can be prone to being washed away or eroded by the wind if it is in an exposed area with limited protection and cover.
As you can see, each type of soil has benefits but also limitations. Loams are comprised of a mixture clay, sand and silt to create a balanced soil which is both easy to work with and always drains well. You can choose between a clay loam or a sandy loam depending on what you want the main feature to be. You can also use compost to change the soil structure.
Not only is it the type of soil that can impact your gardening, it can also be the soil temperature that can affect it as well. The autumn months, especially October is the prime time to plant many spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths. This is because these types of bulbs prefer cooler soil temperatures and colder nights. They also need heavy rain every now and then which is more likely during these months of the year. They need to be planted before the ground gets too frosty as well so the window of opportunity to plant is relatively small. It can be tempting to plant your bulbs as soon you have them delivered, however this is not always the best option. Always read the planting instructions to indicate which time of year they need planting.
It is also important when planting bulbs that you place them at the correct depth in the soil. Each type of plant will require the bulb to be planted at a certain depth, so it is extremely important to read the planting instructions before starting. Use a ruler to measure the depth of the whole in order to get accurate results. As a general rule of thumb smaller bulbs should be planted shallower, however if you are in doubt, always plant the bulb slightly deeper just to be on the safe side.
Working with soil
No matter what type of soil you are working with, it is never good to work with wet soil, so consider this when planning your planting. Try and plant your bulbs a couple of days after you have had heavy rain. Drainage is also important to consider. Most bulbs need well drained soil in order to grow properly and survive. If they are in damp soil for too long, it can lead to bulb rot. Ideally, bulbs should be planted in an area that can be drained within hours of heavy rainfall.
Knowing what soil you are working with will ensure you choose the correct plants for those conditions and keep them in good health for years to come. If you need more tips, advice or help with planting or looking after your bulbs, then please contact us. Boston Bulbs Wholesale is a privately-owned business with over 35 years' experience of importing only the finest quality horticultural products throughout Europe and from farmers and growers all over the UK. Whether you're a landscaper, nursery, local authority, wholesaler, retailer, private business or individual gardener, just give us a call on 01775 769 333 or visit / for help with flower bulbs, grass seed and more.