How Different Types Of Dirt Can Be Used

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Dirt is dirt, right? Not exactly. Some is thicker and chunkier. Other soil can be grainier and sandier. In fact, there are actually six different main types of soil that can be found around the world, and their unique properties mean that their uses differ as well.

Chalky Soil.

This type of soil can be a bit finicky. When it’s hot outside, chalky soil dries out fast. When it’s wet, it can become sticky and hard to work with. Perhaps worst of all, it has a pH level of 7.5 (alkali). This can lead to yellow plants or even stunted plant growth altogether. Flowering shrubs, lilacs, and lilies, however, actually do incredibly well in alkali dirt. And acid-rich materials such as compost, manure, and peat can help you to neutralize the soil and make it more plant-friendly.

Clay Soil.

Clay dirt has some amazing benefits… and frustrating drawbacks. On the plus side, it’s good at holding water and nutrients, so plants are better able to soak them up. On the negative side, it dries very slowly and is slow to heat up – even in hot months. When it does get dry, it can be heavy and hard to work with. To get the most out of clay, try growing asters, heleniums, leafy vegetables, peas, peppers, roses, or tomatoes.

Loamy Soil.

Combining the best aspects of clay, sand, silt, and humus, loamy soil retains nutrients and water, has high calcium levels, great aeration, and boasts a pH of about 6. That means just about everything grows well in it. Just a few things that beginners with loamy dirt may want to try include carrots, marigolds, potatoes, tomatoes, and roses.

Peaty Soil.

Easily identifiable due to its dark brown (even black) color and the fact that it is saturated with water, peaty dirt has a physical makeup that holds nutrients and water and protects plants well. The best plants for peaty dirt are ericaceous shrubs, sedges, and sphagnum moss.

Saline Soil.

This salty soil isn’t very good for growing in and typically leads to damaged plants, irrigation problems, and stalled growth. If your soil has a white layer on top, it’s probably high in salinity, and you should talk to someone about how to fix the issue.

Sandy Soil.

The problem with sandy dirt is that it doesn’t retain water well. Roots can’t take hold because they can’t reach down far enough to where the water drains beneath the sand. Still, some plants are made for sandy dirt, including cistus, hibiscus, peaches, and peanuts.

Silty Soil.

This type of dirt is quite fertile and retains water very well. The only things you need to worry about are aeration and trying not to step on it – silty soil gets compacted easily. Silty dirt is great for growing milkweed, yellow iris, and most fruits and veggies.

There’s also a hidden seventh “type” of dirt: fill dirt. This is a mix of many different types that people typically use as a base for construction projects or place under the “good” dirt in their gardens. If you’ve seen requests like “fill dirt wanted,” that’s what they’re looking for.

When you understand how to best use the different types of dirt out there, you are far more likely to see success. If you discover that you’ve got the “wrong” type of dirt for your needs, find out if there’s a dirt exchange system or program near you. You may discover that you can pay less or even get free fill dirt or soil.

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