Not every soil has the same composition. In fact, it’s likely that the soil in your garden is made up of various types. In turn, this affects the soil’s capacity to retain water and nutrients.
So, we have to ask ourselves: What type of soil holds the most water? Furthermore, is there a way to improve soil water absorption? Here’s what we found out.
First of all, we have to acknowledge that the water holding capacity of soil is determined by two things, namely, organic matter and soil texture.
The first type includes the microorganisms tasked to help in the decomposition of detritus and plant residues.
The second type, detritus, is also known as the active organic matter. This component of soil organic matter includes fecal substances and the remains of dead organisms.
Lastly, humus is known as the stable part that results from plant and animal tissues breaking down.
Organic matter is naturally compatible with water. If the soil contains a significant amount of organic matter, its affinity with water is at a high level.
The organic matter of soil is also a good indicator of its texture. For example, loamy soil and silt soil have adequate organic matter. Then, sandy soil barely has any organic matter. On the other end of the spectrum, clay soil has the highest levels of organic matter.
Furthermore, soil texture is also characterized by particle size distribution. Soil is a combination of various particles: sand, silt, and clay. Determining the soil texture type means knowing the predominant particle in the soil. For example, soil that has 50 percent clay, 30 percent silt, and 20 percent sand will be categorized as clay soil.
Sand particles measure between 0.02 millimeters to nearly two millimeters in length. Silt particles have a diameter between 0.002 millimeters while clay particles never exceed 0.002 millimeters. Thus, silt and clay are the smallest particles.
Silt and clay particles provide a greater surface area than sand ones. A large surface area in the soil makes it more conducive for absorbing water. This means that clay soil has the greatest water holding capacity.
Clay soil takes far longer than sandy soil to reach water saturation. Thus, significantly less water, nutrients, and pesticides are immediately leached. In other words, the soil can readily retain nutrients your plants need.
When it comes to water retention, clay soil is believed to be the ideal soil type. However, this does not mean that sandy soil and loamy soil do not have their advantages.
Above all, sandy soil is easy to handle due to its light weight and compatibility with composting. In addition, sandy soil is actually better for herbs such as rosemary and thyme. It's also better for grass if you choose the best grasses for sandy soil like Centipede Grass or Bahia Grass.
Likewise, loamy soil has enough nutritional content and can keep an adequate amount of moisture. In addition, clay soil is much more difficult to cultivate than sandy soil and loamy soil due to its density.
If you have sandy soil, you can still improve its water absorption capacity. First, remove any stones you see because they negatively affect water retention. Next, try applying a bit of compost to sandy soil.
Moreover, compost is well-known for having great moisture retention and reducing the chances of soil crusting- which unfavorably hardens the soil. In turn, the reduction of crusting increases the soil’s capacity for absorbing water.
For any type of soils, tilling the soil before planting is very important. A soil tiller will turn over and break up the soil and help water to be distributed evenly throughout the area.
Clay soil is the best type for holding water. This is because it is rich in organic matter and provides a large surface area for water retention. Still, loamy soil and sandy soil do have their benefits – and applying compost can help improve soil water absorption.
If you have any questions regarding soil texture, soil organic matter, and their relation to water retention, do feel free to drop a comment.