Clever landscaping can help mask the age of a building, as well as creating a more professional or inviting appearance. But a carefully designed garden or flower bed will quickly lose its beauty if the plants cannot thrive! That’s why we at Carolina Services Inc have created this guide to soil types and soil conditioners that can improve the health of plants and keep your landscaping lush and beautiful.
What is soil?
The term soil refers to a mix of rock, minerals, organic material, and air pockets in which plants can grow and thrive. It is classified according to the size of the particles of which it is made, and can be categorized into three basic soil types: sand, clay, and silt. Sand is made of large particles and has poor water retention capability; in contrast, clay is dense and is formed of very fine particles, meaning that it retains water well but does not drain easily. Finally, silt is made of intermediately sized particles and tends to rich in nutrients and minerals.
Typically considered the best soil for supporting plant life, loam is composed of all three soil types, with more silt and clay than sand. Because it is less dense than clay it offers better drainage as well as improved air circulation around the roots. However, because it is heavier and more cohesive than sand it is less likely to be eroded by the wind and better at retaining water.
Topsoil is commercially produced and usually contains an increased number of nutrients. It is ideal for starting seeds and growing plants that are just beginning to develop strong roots. When using topsoil for landscaping, it is best to till the existing soil – that is, to upturn the upper layers – and to mix the two types together; not doing so may create a water barrier where the two soil types meet and cause improper drainage.
Compost is made of decomposed organic materials and is therefore nutrient rich. It is technically not a soil but a soil amendment, meaning that it lacks the structure to adequately support plants but can be added to sand, silt, or clay to create loam. Like topsoil, compost is most effective when it is tilled and re-spread, thereby providing not only nutrients but reducing the compaction of the soil. This ultimately allows for better drainage and aeration of the roots.
Mulch and Gravel
Although not soil types, mulch and gravel can be added on top of soil in a garden to encourage plant growth. Both mulch and gravel protect soil from erosion and water loss through evaporation, while still being porous enough for adequate air circulation. Mulch will further benefit the soil by adding nutrients as it decomposes, and gravel can absorb heat in the day and release it at night, protecting plants from damage by frost.
It takes careful thought and lots of time to create an attractive landscape, and with the right soil that hard work is well rewarded. Contact Carolina Services Inc today to learn more about landscaping and the construction and design services we offer!
Photo Courtesy of: Brian H