soil type silty soil

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Silt is one of those soil types that gets misunderstood and often neglected. A silt loam, for instance, is a popular type of soil that is known as the best soil for growing plants. Understanding what silt is and how to work with this soil type can help you immensely in the garden.

What is Silt Soil:

By definition, silt is a granular material with a particle size between sand and clay. Silt particles must be between 0.002-0.05 mm, in diameter.

It is composed mostly of broken grains of quartz. It becomes soil when it becomes compacted or get mixed with sand and clay. Silt soil contains a large amount of silt.

You will find silt mostly in freshwater lakes, ponds, playa lakes, streams, river deltas, and on the coast.

Characteristics of Silt Soil:

The dry silt feels like baby powder and the wet silt has a slippery and soapy texture. It does not clump easily like wet clay or crumble like wet sand.

It has decent water retention and decent aeration.

Occasionally forms a ribbon if you squeeze it between fingers and thumb, but is not as stable as clay.

Silt soil is good for growing a variety of different things if you managed it properly.

Silty Soil Vs Loamy Soil:

Your soil composition will most likely have a mixture of silt, clay and sand particles with varying levels of each. silt soil if more than 80 per cent of its composition is made up of silt. 

Loam is an equal mixture of sand, silt and clay content. This type of soil can retain moisture during dry spells but still have enough drainage for healthy roots.

What is Silt Made of:

Silt is made up of rock and mineral particles. Although, some other minerals could also be part of its composition silt is primarily made of feldspar and quartz. They are larger than clay but smaller than sand. Individual silt particles are so small and are difficult to see. 

Silt is a non-renewable resource and one of the 4 types of soil, along with sand, clay, and loam.   

Where is Silt Soil Found? 

Silt is found mostly in freshwater lakes, ponds, playa lakes, streams, river deltas, and on the coast. It is also quite common in areas where glaciers have pushed large amounts of debris downstream. Today, the largest silt deposits are the result of post-glacial floods that took place along major rivers like Missouri, and Mississippi.

Is Silty Soil Good for Growing Plants?

Silty soil is a bit denser than sandy soil, and it drains well. It also lets air and water pass through it, which makes it easier for plants to grow. 

By adding organic materials like compost to your silty soil, you should be able to grow most plants in your garden. Of course, there are certain plants that prefer loose sandy soil such as root vegetables, so growing those might be more difficult. 

If you live in an area with heavier clay soil, don’t panic! You can still grow your vegetables. Vegetables that enjoy clay soil will also do well in silt because both soil types will allow the water to seep into it. Additionally, unlike clay soil that dries out easily, silty soil won’t crack in the summertime which means that your plants will not be stressed! 

Silty soil is also incredibly light and easy to move silt from one place to another.

Plants That Grows Well In Silty Soil:

You can grow an array of plants in silty soil. Some of them are:

  • Hostas (Hosta spp.)
  • Hellebore 
  • Cranesbill (Geranium spp.)
  • Rose
  • Daffodils 
  • Male fern and Ostrich fern etc.

How to Improve Silty Soil

Here are the 3 simple things you can do to improve the quality of the silty soil

Preventing Erosion:

Silty soils tend to contain a lot of mineral particles, while few components of organic matter. This makes them fragile and prone to erosion and compaction. 

if you have a sloped area the risk of soil erosion will be even more. One thing you can do to prevent soil erosion is to use terraces and other structures that prevent water from flowing into or across your garden. You can use stone, brick or wood to do that.

Don’t break up the soil aggregates! Even though this is a popular form of soil treatment in large-scale agriculture, this speeds up erosion. The best thing to do is to garden using low-tilling or no-tilling methods. 

Use cover crops. It is an excellent way to keep soil in place. As the soil is silty the best cover crop options would be buckwheat or berseem clover.

Adding Organic Matter to The Soil:

Your garden needs healthy, nutrient-rich soil so your plants can thrive. As silty soil contains very little organic matter you can manually augment it with organic substances and make it a better soil for growing plants. 

There are many sources of organic matter that you can use. Things like compost, manure, leaves etc can make your soil full of nutrients, and ensure proper aeration and drainage.

Putting time and effort into amending your soil with organic matters is an investment. So have patience. You will get your reward at the end of each harvest.

Apply Mulch:

You can use compost, leaves, straw and wood chips as mulch on top of your silty soil. If you want to give your garden a finished look, use bark or composted bark mulch. Some of these will break down over time and add more nutrients to the soil. To make the mulch effective apply at least 3-6 inches layer of mulch.

Mulch is an important part of a healthy garden. It maintains soil temperature and moisture and promotes plant growth. Mulch also helps control weeds and prevent soil erosion.

I hope you learned something about improving silty soil. You will find more soil-related articles here.

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