Soil texture must be considered in any landscape design. Texture is categorized by the prevailing size of the particles that make up the soil. Determining-- and at times modifying-- the soil texture around a property is essential during landscape construction.
Excessively sandy soil is made of large, non-uniformly shaped particles. Because of the prominent space between the particles, water and nutrients are rapidly expelled. Root systems in this kind of soil are quickly deprived of essential water and nutrients, and thus are frequently in need of attention.
Intermediate sized particles of irregularly shaped silt provide a type of earth that aerates less easily than sand. Silt also holds less water than clay and can become waterlogged easily, which denies roots vital air and nutrients. However, silt still can be fertile, although not as good as loamy soil.
Clay soil is made of tiny particles packed tightly together to produce a densely compressed mass. The microscopic porous spaces between the particles have difficulty releasing water. Because water drains slowly through this material, it can create drainage problems for plants (as well as buildings.) During heavy rains, clay soil can prevent roots from absorbing nutrients as well as getting oxygen. In this weather, plants can develop root rot. In dry weather, when clay becomes even more rock-like, it becomes still more difficult for roots to penetrate.
Loam is the ideal soil. It is a mix of sand and clay with a variable percentage of organic matter incorporated throughout. Loamy soil drains efficiently without drying out too fast. It holds nutrients longer than sandy ground while still providing enough oxygen for healthy root growth. While sufficiently loamy soil can found in some yards, it can also be created for yards that need it.
In addition to the soil’s texture, acidity also determines the usability of the earth in a yard. Soil chemistry is measured on a pH scale ranging from (1) extremely acidic to (14) extremely alkaline. A soil test will help determine natural chemistry of native soil in a yard. Using this information, plants may be selected that will do well in that area, or the ground chemistry can be amended to accommodate the desired plants.
Soil is a combination of organic and inorganic materials and particles. The various combinations of these elements will determine what can be grown. Landscape construction further increases the amount of environmental variables in the soil. Therefore, landscape design must involve an understanding of the existing soil, how the design will impact that soil, and how to amend the soil so that it will support the vision for a perfect garden.
There are a few simple steps to ensure success if you are interested in preparing soil yourself.