No One Wants to Talk About Soil Biology, But It’s Very Important… Here’s the Only Thing You Need to Know.


From pH scale to Soil Types, it all makes a huge difference to your plants in the garden.

Put simply, not everyone cares or has the time to look too much into these things. I get it, you just want to plant and have a lovely garden.

So let’s start by having a poke and prod around the garden and try to get an idea of what soil you do have.


Soil Types

  • Clay soils have over 25 percent clay. Also known as heavy soils, these are potentially fertile as they hold nutrients bound to the clay minerals in the soil. But they also hold a high proportion of water due to the capillary attraction of the tiny spaces between the numerous clay particles. They drain slowly and take longer to warm up in spring than sandy soils. Clay soils are easily compacted when trodden on while wet and they bake hard in summer, often cracking noticeably. These soils often test the gardener to the limits, but when managed properly with cultivation and plant choice, can be very rewarding to work with
  • Sandy soils have a high proportion of sand and little clay. Also known as light soils, these soils drain quickly after rain or watering, are easy to cultivate and work. They warm up more quickly in spring than clay soils. But on the downside, they dry out quickly and are low in plant nutrients, which are quickly washed out by rain. Sandy soils are often very acidic
  • Silt soils, comprised mainly of intermediate sized particles, are fertile, fairly well drained and hold more moisture than sandy soils, but are easily compacted
  • Loams are comprised of a mixture of clay, sand and silt that avoid the extremes of clay or sandy soils and are fertile, well-drained and easily worked. They can be clay-loam or sandy-loam depending on their predominant composition and cultivation characteristics
  • Peat soils are mainly organic matter and are usually very fertile and hold much moisture. They are seldom found in gardens
  • Chalky or lime-rich soils may be light or heavy but are largely made up of calcium carbonate and are very alkaline
  • For more info, go to the RHS Soil Types Website Here


Now, if you have an idea as to which plants you would like in your garden, you can now see if the plants would be a good fit for your garden or not. For example, if you have a heavy clay-like soil, it’s not a good idea to plant succulents as they need well draining soil so to not get root rot. Some plants are better at coping with less draining soils than others, such as Forsythia, Hydrangea and even Roses.

If your soil type doesn’t fit with the plants you have in mind then you have a few options. Firstly, you could dig up the old soil, then replace it with a better-suited soil. Secondly, you could create a raised bed. This means you do not have to move as much soil around and it is a very trendy and modern thing to have in your garden. For more info about other benefits and how to effectively make a raised bed, you can read my article about it here.



pH Scale

Worrying about pH scale is not usually as much of a concern as the type of soil, so it’s better to get the soil right.

“It is worth checking soil pH before designing or planting a new garden, making vegetable plots, planting fruit, when growth is disappointing, or where yellowing of foliage occurs.

Lime is added to increase soil pH (make it more alkaline) and acidifying materials are added to decrease soil pH.

Testing can be done at any time, but if carried out within three months of adding lime, fertiliser or organic matter, the test may give misleading results.” – RHS Website

Soil pH colour chart




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