Garden soil comes in many forms depending on consistency and nutrient content. By identifying and understanding the type of soil you have you can create a workable medium suitable for cultivation.
Clay soils are heavy with high moisture content and are difficult to work with. They will change from being cold, wet and sticky in winter to baking hard in summer with a cracked surface. The soil is naturally high in nutrients which will be released if drainage and aeration is improved with the addition of horticultural grit and organic matter.
Sandy soils are light and free draining which allows any nutrients to wash through in wet weather. Digging in manure or leaf mould will help to create a fertile, moisture retaining soil structure.
Silt soils are more fertile and tend to have a light, grainy texture. They are moisture retentive but are prone to compaction and wind erosion. This can be improved by adding compost and organic matter to bind and stabilize the soil structure.
Loams are considered the optimum soil for gardening. They are a workable mixture of clay, sand and silt with a well balanced nutrient content. It is important not to be complacent about this soil and regular maintenance of the soil structure and content is needed to compensate for the yearly demands of cultivation and the weather.
Peat soils are acidic with very little nutrients and a high moisture content. When drained they can be made workable with the use of fertilizers. Lime or mushroom compost are alkaline and can be added to balance the nutrient content.
Chalky soils can be light or heavy but are very alkaline. Ericaceous plants will not tolerate it but with the use of manure and fertilizers it is possible to grow a wide variety of plants.
Improving the soil means making its texture and structure easier for roots to grow in while providing all the food a plant needs. By considering the nature of your soil even the poorest soil can be given new life.