Getting Dirty: How to Use Different Types of Soil

Healthy soil is important to a successful and thriving garden. The soil we plant our seeds and plants in can determine how strong our flowers and vegetables will grow.

When working in the garden, there are five different types of soil you can work with, and erosion of the different soils may cause problems and impact your garden.

Keep reading to learn more about soil varieties, what you need to know about erosion and products we recommend for your beautiful garden.

5 Different Types of Soil

There are five different soil types as outlined by Growth that gardeners typically work with. These varieties are a combination of three types of weathered rock particles that make up the soil: sand, silt and clay. Keep reading to learn the basics of each type of soil.

    1. Sandy Soil
  • Sandy soil has large particles of the different soil types and is dry and gritty to the touch. The particles in the soil are so large that it cannot hold water; the water drains rapidly to places where the roots, particularly those of seedlings, cannot reach.
  • Unfortunately, plants don’t have a chance of using the nutrients in sandy soil because they’re swiftly carried away by the runoff. However, the benefit to sandy soil is that it’s light to work with and warms much more quickly in the spring.
    2. Silty Soil
  • Silty soil has smaller particles than the sandy variety, which makes it smooth to the touch. When wet, it’s soapy and slick; when you roll the soil between your fingers, dirt is left on your skin. This type of soil retains water longer, but it can’t hold onto nutrients because it is fairly fertile. Due to its moisture-retentive quality, it is cold and drains poorly. Silty soil can also be easily compact, so avoid trampling on it when working in your garden; it can also become poorly aerated.
  • Clay Soil
    3. Clay Soil
  • Clay soil has the smallest particles, which makes it good at storing water. It’s sticky to the touch when wet, but smooth when dry. Due to the extremely small size of the particles and its tendency to settle together, little air passes through clay’s spaces. This type of soil is slow to drain and has a tighter hold on plant nutrients, making it rich in plant food for better growth. Clay soil is cold and takes time to warm up in the spring since the water within also has to warm up.
  • The downside of clay soil is that it can be very heavy to work with when it dries, especially during summer months.
    4. Peaty Soil
  • This type of soil is dark brown or black in color, soft, easily compressed due to its high-water content, and rich in organic matter.
  • Peaty soil tends to be heavily saturated with water; once drained, it turns into a good growing medium. In the summer though, peat can be very dry and become a fire hazard.
  • The most desirable quality of peat soil, however, is its ability to retain water during the dry months, and its capacity to protect the roots from damage during very wet months.
    5. Saline Soil
  • When used in incredibly dry regions, this soil is usually brackish because of its high salt content. Known as saline soil, it can cause damage and stall plant growth, impede germination, and cause difficulties in irrigation.

Soil Erosion Basics

Eroding Soil

According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), “Soil erosion refers to the wearing away of a field's topsoil by the natural physical forces of water and wind or through forces associated with farming activities such as tillage.”

Soil erosion is caused by soil detachment, movement and deposition and unfortunately reduces productivity of land and adds pollution to nearby water sources.

As OMAFRA states, “Soil erosion can be a slow process that continues relatively unnoticed or can occur at an alarming rate, causing serious loss of topsoil. Soil compaction, low organic matter, loss of soil structure, poor internal drainage, salinisation and soil acidity problems are other serious soil degradation conditions that can accelerate the soil erosion process.”

Working With Good Quality Soil and Making Soil Amendments

Great Soil

Quality soil is so vital to producing healthy plants, flowers and vegetables. Below is a list of soils, fertilizers and amendments we recommend for a healthy garden.

Top 6 Soils for Your Garden

  • SummerWinds Natural & Organic Potting Soil (developed with E.B. Stone Organics) – Great for all indoor and outdoor container gardening. For best results, use with E.B. Stone’s Sure Start starter fertilizer.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Ultimate Recipe Potting Soil – Made with the best ingredients available, this soil works well with container gardens both indoors and outdoors. An all-natural organic soil that helps retain moisture and helps with aeration. This garden soil promotes strong root and top growth. Registered cdfa. Pair this soil with E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start fertilizer for best results.
  • Soil Varieies
  • E.B. Stone Organics Citrus & Palm Planting Mix – Blended to help all citrus, palms and other tropical plants thrive. Pair with E.B. Stone Organics Citrus & Fruit Tree Food.
  • FoxFarm Ocean Forest® Potting Soil – This garden soil blend has everything your plants need to thrive in your garden.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Raised Bed & Potting Mix – This organic soil mix is made with premium ingredients and is ideal for any raised bed. It can be used as a stand alone soil or mixed with garden soil. Registered cdfa. Pair with E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start fertilizer.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Rose Grow Planting Mix – This organic soil mix is designed to be used as both a planting mix for roses and as a stand-alone potting soil for perfectly suited for roses. Pair with E.B. Stone Organics Rose and Flower Food.

Top 7 Soil Amendments to Keep in Mind

You can fix existing poor soil by amending it with missing nutrients. SummerWinds Nursery sells a number of soil amendments, including:

  • SummerWinds Natural & Organic Planting Mix (developed with E.B. Stone Organics) – This all-purpose natural and organic transplanting mix is ideal for all types of flowers, vegetables and ornamentals, including annuals, perennials, ground covers, shrubs, fruit and shade trees. For best results, pair with E.B. Stone’s Sure Start starter fertilizer.
  • Amendments to your soil
  • E.B. Stone Naturals Chicken Manure – Works as both a fertilizer and soil amendment; great for starting a new garden.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Organic Compost – The organic matter found in compost is the foundation of rich garden soils and key to all types of successful gardens, including vegetable gardens, flower beds, with trees, shrubs and even on lawns. Can be added to the soil during planting or used as surface mulch.
  • E.B. Stone Naturals Soil Sulfur – This essential plant nutrient helps adjust the pH level of your soil and supports plants to maintain their green leaves. Also assists plant in the use of nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Uni-Gro® Vermiculite – An organic soil additive that increases water retention, aeration and slowing nutrient release. Excellent for use in containers.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Volcanic Pumice – A natural way to improve aeration and water retention. Great for use with potting soils and containers.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Super Earthworm Castings – An ideal addition to local soils, this organic soil conditioner helps improve the overall health of your soil.

6 Soils For Specific Applications:

There are those plants that need a little extra this and that in their soil to be successful; therefore SummerWinds carries Specific Application Soils developed specifically for those plants.

  • E.B. Stone Organics African Violet Mix – best for all varieties of indoor flowers. Contains: Fir Bark, Aged Redwood and Sand. Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Azalea, Camellia & Gardenia Planting Mix – good for a soil amendment or potting soil. Recommended for use with evergreens, ferns, rhododendrons, begonias and other plants that prefer acidic soil. Registered cdfa.
  • Special Soils
  • E.B. Stone Organics Bonsai Planting Mix – great for indoor use and outdoor use for all bonsai plants. Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Naturals Cactus Mix – great soil for all indoor cactus and succulent plants. Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Orchid Mix – soil that is tailored to the needs of orchids. Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Seed Starter Mix – This lightweight organic soil mix is ideal for starting seeds and rooting cuttings. Registered cdfa. Pair this with E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start fertilizer.

Gardening with Healthy Soil

Understanding the different types of soil, soil health and what to plant with can make a huge difference in your garden. The results you see are a direct result of the type of soil you use and as you can tell, SummerWinds has a wide variety to choose from.

If you have questions about what type of soil to use or how to make it healthy, reach out to one of our experts at your local SummerWinds Nursery; we look forward to working with you.

About SummerWinds Nursery: SummerWinds Garden Centers is a leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds operates retail nurseries in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and in Silicon Valley, California, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the west. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.