How Well Do You Know Your Soil

8 November 2019

The best4hedging guide to identifying your soil type

Recognising what type of soil you are working with in your garden is essential before purchasing hedging plants or shrubs as different species prefer certain conditions. All soils consist of the same basic materials; a variety of mineral and rock particles, however the different concentrations of certain particles in each soil determines which of the 5 main soil categories it falls into. The success of your plants depends on how well they can deal with the conditions faced and whether they can easily absorb the moisture and nutrients they need to flourish. In order to achieve the healthiest hedge possible, and to ensure you are choosing the right plants to suit your garden, grab a handful of soil, give it a squeeze and use our guide below to discover your soil type.

What’s my soil type?

1. Clay soil

How does it feel?

Clay soil will feel heavy and has a smooth but slightly sticky consistency, especially when wet. You should be able to easily roll this soil into a ball and, if left to dry, clay soil will set and become hard, almost like concrete.

What are the advantages of clay soil?

Clay soils contain a large number of nutrients compared to some other soils, and although it is commonly thought that clay soil can be difficult to handle, simply adding organic matter will help to break up the soil structure and make it easier to work with.

What are the disadvantages of clay soil?

There can be some drainage issues with clay soil as it holds a lot of water. Clay soil can also slow down the growth rate of your plants slightly as the soil takes a little bit longer to warm up in spring.

Treat my soil…

Soil that holds a lot of water can sometimes be a problem, however there are measures that you can take to ensure that your hedging plants prosper, even in this challenging condition. The drainage of your soil can be improved by creating raised beds or banks so that you are able to plant on a more elevated area. This will increase the number of options you have when choosing which species of plant will suit your garden. If you find that your plants are struggling in a wet soil, replanting in containers is a simple way to reduce the moisture in your soil, just ensure your container has drainage holes.

See our selection of hedging that is suited to wet soil.

Clay soil favourites:

2. Sandy soil

How does it feel?

Sandy soil will crumble easily in your hand and have a dry, gritty texture.

What are the advantages of sandy soil?

Sandy soils are quick to warm up in spring and are great for cultivation purposes.

What are the disadvantages of sandy soil?

As this soil type consists mainly of – you guessed it – sand, water can drain quickly through the soil, washing away nutrients before plants have the chance to absorb them.

Treat my soil…

We have a few steps you can take to improve how well your soil conserves water. Adding organic matter to your soil and using a fertiliser, such as Rootgrow will help to improve the condition of your soil and allow the plant to absorb the moisture and nutrients it needs. Before planting, we recommend soaking both the planting hole and the roots of the plant, then after planting, thoroughly water your new hedge or tree. Using an irrigation system or applying mulch to the surface of your soil can also help to reduce drought.

There can often be panic at the realisation of dry soil, however there are a huge range of hedging plants for dry soils available that are tolerant of these conditions. Dry soils are often associated with hedging plants native to the Mediterranean that display grey-green or silvery coloured foliage, such as Lavender hedging . This is mainly because these leaves are able to retain more moisture by reflecting the sun’s rays.

Sandy soil favourites:

3. Loamy soil

How does it feel?

This soil is often described as a ‘gardener’s best friend’ and has the properties of the ultimate soil; smooth to touch with a consistency that’s not too sticky or too dry. Loamy soil can be rolled into a smooth ball, and then crumbled easily.

What are the advantages of loamy soil?

Loamy soils have good drainage, retaining just the right amount of moisture and are high in nutrients. This soil type is composed of a balance of different materials, creating the ideal soil structure.

What are the disadvantages of loamy soil?

It’s hard to fault this soil type, but you may need to replenish nutrient levels every few years by adding organic matter.

Take a look at our full range of hedging plants suited to this soil.

Loamy soil favourites:

4. Chalky (alkaline) soil

How does it feel?

Alkaline soils have a lumpy consistency, made up of chalk and small stones. Chalky soils normally have a pale colour.

What are the advantages of chalky soil?

This soil has good drainage with a very low risk of flooding due to the porosity of chalky soils and it warms up quickly in spring.

What are the disadvantages of chalky soil?

Chalky soils may need extra water in summer as they can often become dry and, due to the stony texture, digging can sometimes be difficult.

Treat my soil…

Adding organic matter will increase the low level of nutrients in this soil and make the conditions easier to work with.

Chalky soil favourites:

5. Silty soil

How does it feel?

Silt is the least commonly found soil of all the soil types and has properties similar to both sand and clay soils. Silt soils are smooth to touch like clay and consist of fine particles comparable to sand. It can be easily compacted, but squeezed into more of a sausage shape rather than rolled into a ball.

What are the advantages of silty soil?

This soil type can hold water better than sandy soils and, similar to clay, is rich in nutrients.

What are the disadvantages of silty soil?

Sometimes this soil type can experience poor drainage.

Treat my soil…

Adding organic matter helps to condense the fine particles of silt, providing good, fertile conditions.

In the case of moist conditions, plants are still able to easily absorb the correct amount of water, nutrients and oxygen they need to thrive. We have a large selection of hedging plants for moist soils, including vibrant Dogwood hedging, which offers striking year-round interest and grows particularly well in a moist position.

Silty soil favourites:

Help your plants thrive

It’s important to make sure your soil is of a decent quality in order for the roots of your hedging plants to strongly establish. Plants require a certain amount of nutrients in order to thrive and all plants look for these nutrients in the first 5-20 cm (2-8 inches) of the soil. We provide high quality top soil to ensure plants get their best start to establishment.

Following this, improvements to the plants themselves alongside soil improvements will increase their development and give you a healthy hedge. This is why we recommend using Rootgrow, Bonemeal and Seaweed which you can find in our Planting Essentials section.

Whilst the success of your garden is important, it is also essential that you are taking care of your own needs. Our tools selection is designed to provide you comfort and enjoyment no matter what your experience or style. With our comprehensive range of tools, your everyday gardening needs will be met. A happy gardener – a happy garden!

Don’t forget…

It is not just the soil type that can impact the success of your hedging plants, but other environmental factors. Sunlight exposure and the weather conditions that your hedging will be exposed to can influence how well your plants will grow. Our helpful Best Hedging Plants for Me tool will allow you to narrow down the most suitable hedging choices for your garden.

If you have any questions about this topic, or anything else relating to your garden, please tweet us @best4hedging or follow us on Facebook and we’ll be happy to help.

You can call our expert gardening team on 01257 788 259 for friendly advice.