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What's My Soil Type

You can choose from thousands of plants but you cannot choose your soil. Some form of soil improvement is usually required before planting new plants. If the soil in your garden is poor then your plants will struggle to establish and will produced disappointing results.

If you're lucky you will have a medium-textured or loamy soil. It will have a good crumb structure that you'll have to do very little to, however most soils are either clayey or sandy.

Heavy (Clayey) Soil

If you squeeze a handful of moist soil it should form a strong ball. When you press it, it changes shape but doesn't fall apart. It will feel smooth and sticky when wet and stains the skin.

This soil will provide good water retention and is generally supplied well with plant foods which are not washed away by rain. It is, however, difficult to cultivate in most conditions, cracking in dry weather and possibly water logging in wet weather.

Dig through the soil thoroughly in autumn adding a generous quantity of organic matter to help improve the soil. Do not plant our until the soil is reasonable dry.

Light (Sandy) Soil


If you squeeze a handful of moist soil it will sift through your fingers when released. It will feel gritty when rubbed between your fingers.

This soil is easier to work with and is suitable for early flowers and vegetables. This soil is usually short of plant foods so frequent watering is necessary in summer.

Incorporate plenty of humus making material into the top few inches in late winter/early spring. Mulching will help conserve moisture.

Acid Soil

Use a pH meter to test the acidity in your soil. Most easy-care plants will grow quite happily in mildly acid soils.

When growing plants such as azalea, camellia, rhododendron, pieris and most heathers an acidic soil will be required. Many plants can suffer in distinctly acid soils.

If the pH meter indicates a high level of acid, use a lime dressing to help combat it.

Alkaline Soil

Again, test with a pH meter. Most easy-care plants will grow quite happily in mildly alkaline soils.

Good for growing plants such as delphiniums, wallflowers and many alpines. Make sure you don't plant plants that require acid soils.

Use compost of peat to help reduce the alkalinity in the soil.

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