A photo of soil with a pitch fork and the text "Awe Go Ahead... Get Dirty!" in white on the soil

Getting Dirty: How To Prep & Use Different Types of Soil

Healthy Soil Is Important To A Successful And Thriving Garden

The soil we plant our seeds and plants in can determine how strong our flowers and vegetables will grow.

When working in the garden, there are four different types of soil you can work with, and erosion of the different soils may cause problems and impact your garden.

Keep reading to learn more about soil varieties, how to amend your soil to remedy erosion, and products we recommend for your beautiful garden.

Soil Layers

4 Main Types of Soil

There are four different soil types that gardeners typically work with. Keep reading to learn the basics of each type of soil. Your goal in the garden is to have a healthy balance of sand, silt and clay.

1. Sandy Soil

  • Sandy soil has large particles of the different soil types and is dry and gritty to the touch. The particles in the soil are so large that it cannot hold water; the water drains rapidly to places where the roots, particularly those of seedlings, cannot reach.
  • Unfortunately, plants don’t have a chance of using the nutrients in sandy soil because they’re swiftly carried away by the runoff. However, the benefit to sandy soil is that it’s light to work with and warms much more quickly in the spring.
  • Adding topsoil, aged manure, compost or peatmoss will improve the structure.

2. Silty Soil

  • Silty soil has smaller particles than the sandy variety, which makes it smooth to the touch. When wet, it’s soapy and slick; when you roll the soil between your fingers, dirt is left on your skin. This type of soil retains water longer, but it can’t hold onto nutrients because it is fairly fertile. Due to its moisture-retentive quality, it is cold and drains poorly. Silty soil can also be easily compact, so avoid trampling on it when working in your garden; it can also become poorly aerated.
  • Adding sand, compost, aged manure, topsoil, and peatmoss will improve the structure.

3. Clay Soil

Clay Soil

  • Clay soil has the smallest particles, which makes it good at storing water. It’s sticky to the touch when wet, but smooth when dry. Due to the extremely small size of the particles and its tendency to settle together, little air passes through clay’s spaces. This type of soil is slow to drain and has a tighter hold on plant nutrients, making it rich in plant food for better growth. Clay soil is cold and takes time to warm up in the spring since the water within also has to warm up.
  • The downside of clay soil is that it can be very heavy to work with when it dries, especially during summer months.

4. Loam

  • Loam is the soil structure most ideal for planting. It has a healthy balance of clay, silt and sand, and is excellent at retaining nutrients, as well as staying drier in winter and wetter in summer.

Soil Erosion Basics

Eroding Soil

According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), “Soil erosion refers to the wearing away of a field's topsoil by the natural physical forces of water and wind or through forces associated with farming activities such as tillage.”

Soil erosion is caused by soil detachment, movement and deposition and unfortunately reduces productivity of land and adds pollution to nearby water sources.

As OMAFRA states, “Soil erosion can be a slow process that continues relatively unnoticed or can occur at an alarming rate, causing serious loss of topsoil. Soil compaction, low organic matter, loss of soil structure, poor internal drainage, salinisation and soil acidity problems are other serious soil degradation conditions that can accelerate the soil erosion process.”

Mulching your soil and amending it yearly will help combat soil erosion, as well refresh available nutrients in your soil.

Working With Good Quality Soil and Making Soil Amendments

Quality soil is so vital to producing healthy plants, flowers and vegetables. Below is a list of soils, fertilizers and amendments we recommend for a healthy garden.

Top Soils for Your Garden

  • Bag of organic SummerWinds Potting SoilSummerWinds Natural & Organic Potting Soil (developed with E.B. Stone Organics) – Great for all indoor and outdoor container gardening. Registered cdfa. For best results, use with E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start starter fertilizer
  • E.B. Stone Organics Citrus & Palm Potting or Planting Mix – The perfect mix for all citrus, palms and other tropical plants. Registered cdfa. Pair with E.B. Stone Organics Citrus & Fruit Tree Food
  • FoxFarm Ocean Forest® Potting Soil – This garden soil blend has everything your plants need to thrive in your garden.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Raised Bed Potting or Planting – This organic soil mix is made with premium ingredients and is ideal for any raised bed. It can be used as a stand alone soil or mixed with garden soil. Registered cdfa. Pair with E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start starter fertilizer.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Rose & Flower Potting or Planting Mix – The perfect planting mix for both beautiful flowers and rose gardens. Registered cdfa. Pair with E.B. Stone Organics Rose and Flower Food.

Top Soil Amendments to Keep in Mind

You can fix existing poor soil by amending it with missing nutrients. SummerWinds Nursery sells a number of soil amendments, including:

  • 2 cu ft. bag of summerwinds nursery planting mix sitting on the sidewalk in front of green shrub SummerWinds Natural & Organic Planting Mix (developed with E.B. Stone Organics) – This all-purpose natural and organic transplanting mix is ideal for all types of flowers, vegetables and ornamentals, including annuals, perennials, ground covers, shrubs, fruit and shade trees. For best results, pair with E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start starter fertilizer.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Chicken Manure – Composted for superior results. Great for repairing lawns, flowers and vegetable gardens. Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Naturals Soil Sulfur Minerals – Helps acidify the soil. Ideal for lowering the pH of alkaline soils. Aids in the use of nitrogren by the plant. 
  • E.B. Stone Organics Organic Compost – The organic matter found in compost is the foundation of rich garden soils and key to all types of successful gardens, including vegetable gardens, flower beds, with trees, shrubs and even on lawns. Can be added to the soil during planting or used as surface mulch.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Soil Booster – The perfect garden soil for planting vegetables, herbs and flowers. Can also be used as a soil conditioner to break up hard clay soil, and add organic material to help sandy soils hold onto water and nutrients. Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Earthworm Castings – Pure earthworm castings improves your soil and provides an excellent source of organic matter. 
  • E.B. Stone Organics Pumice – A natural way to improve aeration and water retention. Great for use with potting soils and containers.
  • Uni-Gro® Vermiculite – An organic soil additive that increases water retention, aeration and slowing nutrient release. Excellent for use in containers.

Soils For Specific Applications

There are those plants that need a little extra this and that in their soil to be successful; therefore SummerWinds carries Specific Application Soils developed specifically for those plants.

  • African VioletE.B. Stone Organics African Violet Potting Mix – a special soil blend for all types of indoor flowering plants. Contains extra Peat Moss to help retain moisture. Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Azalea, Camellia & Acid Potting Mix – A unique mix that is ideal for all acid-loving plants. Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Bonsai Soil – For all types of indoor and outdoor Bonsai.  Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Cactus & Succulent Potting or Planting Mix – Ideal for all outdoor and indoor cactus and succulent plants. Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Orchid Bard – Premium medium Fir bark. Excellent for all types of orchids. Registered cdfa.
  • E.B. Stone Organics Seed Starter Mix – A lightweight mix blended for starting all types of seeds. Registered cdfa. Pair this with E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start starter fertilizer.

How-to Prep Your Soil Video

In this how-to-video we'll show you the best way to prep your soil before planting. Follow these few simple steps and find success in planting and growing healthy trees, shrubs and other plants.

Make Your Soil Great

Gardening with Healthy Soil

Understanding the different types of soil, soil health and what to plant with can make a huge difference in your garden. The results you see are a direct result of the type of soil you use and as you can tell, SummerWinds has a wide variety to choose from.

If you have questions about what type of soil to use or how to make it healthy, reach out to one of our experts at your local SummerWinds Nursery; we look forward to working with you.

At SummerWinds, We Guarantee Success!