Loam is a soil that combines all three soil types -- clay, silt and sand -- in relatively equal proportions.Loam is the richest, most nurturing soil, and just about anything will grow in it, according to Purdue University Consumer Horticulture specialists. Sandy loam drains well but holds few nutrients and doesn't hold water. Clay loam compresses because of the microscopic size of its particles, so it has poor drainage and aeration. Silty loam falls somewhere between sand and clay.
Tomatoes like sandy loam soil, especially if it is warm. Both types of tomatoes will grow well in sandy loam soil: determinate varieties that ripen all at once and indeterminate varieties that ripen a few at a time over a whole season. Tomatilloes will thrive in the same soil type as tomatoes. Lettuces do best in good-draining, balanced loam but do fine in a sandy loam that drains really well. Peppers, from sweet bell types to fiery habaneros and jalapeños, thrive in sandy or silty loam soil that drains easily. It doesn't matter if peppers are grown in temperate, tropical or subtropical climates as long as they have a relatively dry season, so a good loam that drains well helps to offset a wetter climate.
Rice is one grain that thrives in clay loam and will happily grow in it as long as the soil is wet or flooded. Because clay drains poorly, a clay loam provides the wet conditions rice needs. Wheat grows best in silt loam or clay loam but needs good drainage and nutrient-rich soil. Barley also does best with good drainage but it grows well in clay or sandy loam. And oats need a very fine sandy loam but will grow in clay if it drains well. Corn can handle sandy to clay loam but will only yield an abundant crop if the soil is well-fertilised.
Roses are vigorous bloomers when they have a bed of perfectly balanced loam. But they are not too fussy to do fine in silty loam. They require good nutrients and drainage and can, with the right fertilising, be coaxed to grow in sandy loam. Roses tend to grow poorly in clay as it is too dense for their roots to aerate properly. Jasmine is hardier. It will grow best in moist loam soils but will make do with sandy or clay loam if careful attention is paid to drainage. Wild bergamot, wood anemone and spiderwort all do best in loam or silt loam. And amaryllis, California poppy, yucca and baby's-breath actually thrive in sandy loam. Yucca plants, with their stalks of creamy blooms, often grow right next to sandy beaches, just inland of dune grasses.
Most fruit trees live longer and produce better when they grow in balanced loam, although apple, cherry, pear, peach, apricot, plum and almond trees will adapt to a sandy or clay loam if it has excellent drainage. Citrus trees like good drainage, but they need to be kept moist. Loam is a good choice for citrus, followed by sandy loam. Although you can have some success with clay loam, drainage is critical for young citrus trees, so it is easier to raise healthy trees in loam or sandy loam.
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