Create a new lawn, Gardening tips, Lawn care basics, Lawn maintenance,

How to Improve Soil Quality: Analysing Your Garden Soil Type

The soil condition affects the health of your lawn, hedges, flowerbeds, and roses! Find out how to determine your garden's soil conditions and which improvements to make!

4 MIN 19 Mar
Last update: 05 Apr 2023
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Light, medium, or heavy — the classification of your garden soil is reminiscent of Olympic martial arts! But in this case, the soil type says more about which plants will feel at home in your garden than the strength of the soil’s structure. Read on to find out how to improve soil quality – it’s simple!!!

Table of contents:
  • How to determine your garden soil quality
  • How to improve soil quality

In this article, we’ll explore how to improve soil quality in your garden and how to ensure your garden grows beautifully all year round. 

Ready? Let’s get to it. 

How to determine your garden soil quality

Light sandy soil held in a hand
Light, sandy soil

Finding out what type of earth you have in your garden is a simple case of getting your hands a little dirty. 

Take a handful of damp garden soil and shape it into a ball. Then, roll it into a sausage. You have sandy soil if the ball crumbles and loses shape when you roll it. But you have medium-clay soil if the sausage holds its shape while maintaining a smooth surface. But if the sausage is sticky to the touch, you have heavy clay soil. 

So, which is best? Light, mid, or heavy soil?

Garden soil quality – Light, sandy

Light soil is light brown in colour and sandy, loose, and crumbly in texture — often referred to as sandy soil

Sandy soil drains very well – suitable for plants that don’t like to sit in soggy earth, such as hardy geraniums, tulips, and lavender. 

However, this also means that sandy soil loses its moisture quickly — so you’ll probably be continuously watering your plants and lawn. 

Sandy soil can be problematic for lawns, which need at least 1 inch of water weekly. In this case, you can improve the soil quality by adding improvers — read on for more details.

Plants that enjoy sandy soil

Garden soil quality – Medium-heavy

If you have medium-heavy soil, you’re in luck because it’s the best of both worlds — holding onto moisture AND draining well. Medium-heavy soils, therefore, don’t flood as quickly as heavy soils, and you don’t need to water your lawn or plants as regularly. 

Because medium-heavy earth has good and relatively consistent water content, it warms up quickly in the spring, providing optimal growing conditions for numerous plants, such as chard, roses, and grass.

If you have medium-heavy soil, put your feet up — you don’t need to improve your growing conditions. But don’t forget that all soils still benefit from regular fertilisation. 

Plants that thrive in medium-heavy soil

Flowering shrubs, such as: 

  • Weigela 
  • Hydrangea 
  • Buddleja
  • Forsythia

Garden soil quality – Heavy soil

Clay soil
Clay soil

Heavy clay soils retain lots of water, which is good unless it gets saturated. You’ll find rich clay earth becomes easily waterlogged and lacks drainage, which can rot plant roots. 

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, heavy, dense soil is low in oxygen because the surface air can’t penetrate the soil. So, while the clay is high in nutrients, the lack of oxygen can stunt plant growth.  

This makes heavy soil particularly inhospitable for many plants — although you’ll find a proliferation of weeds because they love it! 

Heavy soil warms up very slowly, so you may notice slow growth at the beginning of spring. But don’t worry; it’ll catch up as the ambient temperature increases. 

Heavy soil-loving plants

Dark clay soil with seedlings
Dark, clay soil

While heavy soil is a challenge for many plants, some plants thrive in highly nutritious, dense earth, including:

  • Roses
  • Foxglove
  • Hydrangea macrophylia
  • Primrose
  • Aster
  • Day lily
  • Forsythia
  • Elder
  • Thalictrum

How to improve soil quality

If you have heavy or light soil, you could improve the soil conditions to neutralise their extremes. Medium-clay soil: nothing to worry about!

Light soil

Firm up light soil by adding nutritious compounds that hold its structure, such as homemade compost, clay mineral flour, mulch, leaf mould, or horticultural clay. This will bring better water-retentive properties to your soil, helping it maintain its natural nutrients. 

If you have light sandy lawn soil, add topsoil for extra structure and fertilise well because the nutrients are easily washed away with sandy soils.  

Heavy soil

You can improve heavy soil by mixing it with horticultural sand or well-rotted compost. Pile heaps of these compounds onto your flowerbeds and turn them over into the earth with a garden fork. 

For lawns, aerate your soil regularly, using a hollow tine aerator and filling the holes with good-quality topsoil. You can also scarify your lawn to help remove the dense felt layer that can develop over heavy soils, which also helps to aerate the topsoil.

Any questions?

I hope you’ve got all the information you need about how to improve soil quality. But if you have questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

We’d love to hear from you, and we promise to reply promptly! 

Thanks for reading. 


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