When it comes to planting, it isn’t just about placing your seeds in-the-ground and watering as much as possible. There are so many things to consider, from what you’re planting down to the overall soil quality. YES, your soil matters when you plant, making or breaking the way they grow and reap the fruit.

With that said, there are three mainsail types to look into, which makes you wonder: What is a loamy soil, sandy loam, and sandy soil and what makes them different?

I researched to show you all about these three soil types, so read on to learn what’s best to use!

Loam soil is a mix of soil that creates the ideal area for plants to grow. It combines equal parts of sand, silt, and clay, giving benefits for growing plants but having some minor issues to take note of.

Typically, it’s composed of 40% silt, 40% sand, and 20% clay, though it varies depending on the type of loam soil you need.

Clay, Silt, and Sandy Soil

Clay soils have a denser texture with great water and nutrient-retaining properties. Because of this, it’s a great choice for flowering plants that require lots of water.

With silt soils, they’re a mix between both clay and sandy soils, which allow both soil types to mix excellently. It has an extremely fine texture and holds moisture well. However, like clay soil, there’s a chance of it becoming compact easily.

Because of its compacting, it can cause drainage issues, especially when using either silt or clay soil on its own. But you can use it for plants that require moisture, such as vines, grasses, and colored flowers because of silt’s smooth and slippery feel.

As for sandy soils, they have a rougher texture, which allows better drainage and lets in the air better. It’s best for plants that love drought, like cacti. However because it’s TOO good in draining, it also washes away nutrients! Because of this, using sandy soil isn’t best for itself. But I’ll get more into sandy soil in the next section.

When you combine all three types of these soils, you’ll get loam, which provides the advantages of these three. This has you grow any plant without the need to add fertilizer or extra nutrients to your plants.

Clay and silt retain moisture while sand prevents soil from compacting it too much. With all these combined, it helps with drainage, allowing the soil to crumble but holds its shape. Furthermore, it’s usable all year, making it very advantageous to the versatile gardener.

How to Make Loamy Soil

You can create loamy soil on your own, but you have to be wary with how much of each soil type you put. Follow these steps:

  • Add two inches of organic matter to your garden surface during the late fall season.
  • Wet the plot until you saturate the organic matter, leaving it over the winter season.
  • Once spring comes, turn the soil and matter with a shovel, or use the best rear tine tiller to till it with a depth of up to eight inches.

It CAN take quite some time achieving the perfect loamy soil, maybe even over a year. But with good work done, you’ll be able to properly plant your seeds without any problems of nutrient retention and drainage.

About Sandy Loam

As for sandy loam, this is a soil type many also use for gardening, made up of a little more sand than silt and clay. It has 60% sand, 30% silt particles, and 10% clay. Sometimes, it can have about 43-50% sand, about less than 50% silt, and 7% of clay.

However, it has more silt and clay than sandy soil, still making it ideal for gardening, which I’ll explain later on. This sandy loam would balance ingredients of various soils, creating ideal garden soil.

This loam soil type has more sand particles than any other material, though has enough silt and clay for fertility and good structure. There are also actually different types of sandy loam, including:

  • Sandy loam
  • Coarse sandy loam
  • Fine sandy loam
  • Very fine sandy loam

The type you have depends on the size of your sand particles, which is measured by mm.

You’ll know if you have sandy loans when you see visible sand particles mixed with your soil. They CAN hold its shape if rolled into a ball, but it breaks easily. Furthermore, they have a grittier feel compared to other loam soils.

In terms of gardening, it can drain excess water quickly BUT it can’t hold a lot of nutrients and water for plants. Because of this, the plants you grow here will need more fertilization and irrigation.

What makes them advantageous is its good drainage properties, which lessens the chance of over saturating your plants. If your plants become oversaturated, this increases the risk of it rotting and developing diseases.

How to Build Sandy Loam

When making sandy loam, it isn’t just about mixing all these and expecting it to be ready for planting immediately. You’ll need to improve your sandy soil gradually, building it over time. Do this by working compost or organic matter to your soil every year, adding nutrients and permeability to your soil.

If you plan on planting on sandy loam, you can successfully do so by doing frequent fertilization and irrigations. This maintains healthier growth of your plants.

Just make sure that the fertilizer and organic matter you do add to your sandy loam isn’t too high in acidity. Sand is already naturally acidic and some plants won’t be able to thrive in such conditions. If your soil is too acidic, then you can add lime and work it to your soil, reducing the pH levels.

About Sandy Soil

You probably think that sandy loam and sandy soil are the same but they have different characteristics. These differences make them usable for only certain types of plants.  You can find sandy soil mostly in patches of various districts or heathlands.

You will know if you have sandy soil if you feel individual grains on your garden bed. Your soil would also feel gritty between the fingers and won’t be able to hold its shape if you try rolling it to a ball.

With sandy soil, it’s similar to loam soil, having a mix of silt, loam, and sand. However, it has an even higher percentage of sand compared to other soil types. Usually, sandy soils would have at least 35% of sand and less than 15% of clay and silt materials.

Sand is small pieces of eroded rocks that have gritty textures. You’ll see that its soil particulars have diameters larger than 2mm, at least. Because of its high percentage of sand particles, it has excellent drainage properties, which can be disadvantageous.

This is because water and nutrients would drain from the sandy soil and not reach your plants. As a result, most plants won’t be able to survive in this soil. It’s made best for forestry, not for farming.

However, that doesn’t mean sandy soil is useless! It’s got a lot of purposes, using it in areas such as:

  • Agricultural needs
  • Construction or foundation
  • Changing your ground's pH levels
  • Plants that require more drainage
  • For beaches and playgrounds

They do have their advantages as well. With sandy soil, they hold little water and drain well, best for drought-loving AND acid-loving plants. You can also sow and plant early in the spring for vegetable crops. Furthermore, they’re easier to dig and feel lighter, having the ability to cultivate any time of the year.

How to Improve Sandy Soil

While sandy soil isn’t best to use for most seeds, you can still improve it to make it suitable for planting. With that said, I highly recommend that you begin the process of amending sandy soil using well-rotted manure or compost. Using compost like hummus, leaf molds, or grass clippings can help improve your sandy soil quickly.

You can try adding peat or vermiculite, but they only help with the soil’s water retention, not its nutrition content.

Besides that, I also recommend that you monitor your soil’s salt levels. Avoid adding TOO much compost and manure, as they have higher levels of salt which can damage plants. If you have sandy soil high in salt already, I recommend that you use plant-based compost or use sphagnum peat, which has lower salt levels.

What Is Loamy Soil, Sandy Loam, Sandy Soil? What's Best?

Now that you’re familiar with these three main types of soil, which do you think is best for you?

If you’re more focused on growing drought-loving plants and want something easier to work with, I recommend sandy soil. It also warms up quickly during the spring, which is what most drought-loving plants need!

If you plan to have an abundance of different plants and flowers in one garden bed, I recommend that you use loam soil. It’s versatile and can help most plants grow because of its equal mix of all soil components.

If you want something with better drainage capabilities compared to loamy soil, a sandy loam is the way to go. It has a good texture for root crops, like radishes!

Each soil type has its pros and cons, it’s just up to you and what you plant to see which works well for your garden. Just make sure that you also focus on other aspects of planting, such as seed quality, water and nutrients, and the climate you live in.

Wrapping It Up

I know how difficult it seems trying to figure out which types of soil you have and how to prepare them. But with the right knowledge, it will help you learn what you need to do to improve your garden bed. That way, your plants will grow without any issues as you continue to care for it and your soil.

I hope this article answered your question, “what is a loamy soil, sandy loam, sandy soil? Now that you’re aware of these soil types, identify what you have and how to prepare your garden bed well now.

If you have any questions or want to share your own experiences dealing with any of these soil types, do comment below. Your thoughts are much appreciated!