Saturday, May 1, 2010

What's Your Soil?

Soil changes from region to region.  When I lived on the West Coast our soil was very sandy and loose.  Now living on the East Coast I'm having to do a bit of adjusting.  I spent quite a bit of time digging in the dirt today and was reminded just how different things are in our new home.  Prince Edward Island is known for it's red dirt which is caused by high quantities of iron in the soil.  The iron oxidizes when it comes in contact with the air and it turns red.  What I have also discovered is that it is clay.  Here's a test to see if you have clay soil.  Pick up a handful of dirt from the ground and squeeze it in your hand.  Does it look like this?

If the dirt sticks together in a solid lump and doesn't easily shake apart then you too have clay soil.  Because it sticks together so readily clay tends to be very dense and lacks air flow.  This density also restricts the flow of water.  I poured some water into a hole and this is what happens.

Nothing.  It just sits there.  This can pose a major problem for your plants because when it rains the water will have difficulty draining through the soil and roots may end up sitting in water for long periods of time.  For some plants this can be fatal.  So if you have clay soil make sure you have compatible plants or try amending your soil with peat moss, sand and compost to improve the texture of your soil.


  1. Our is more grey, but clay it is. jim

  2. Clay is universal! I also have it in my garden here in Victoria Australia :D At least the roses like it.

  3. Hi Jim, thanks for joining me! The soil I remember as a child growing up in Northern British Columbia was grey clay as well. I have a vague memory of making mud pies that had a greasy consistency. So much fun as a child, not so much as a gardener!

    Gippsland - no wonder the spot I was digging in has roses popping up everywhere! That's great to know. I don't have much experience with roses. I was planting a lilac yesterday and I'm hoping it will settle in all right.

  4. Mine might have been more claylike if it wasn't 40% composted of poorly done job of desiccated concrete. I deal with the opposite water problem. It can rain 2 feet overnight and the next day the soil will act like it never happened.