Gardeners need to know their soil type when preparing a planting bed. Loam soil has many advantages because it offers positive qualities found in sandy, clay and silt soils. This soil looks rich, is moderately coarse, moderately fine and is loose, according to the University of Arizona. When moist, loam soil can form a ball in your hand that will crumble when poked with a finger, according to the City of Bremerton website.
Best Balanced Soil
Loam, which is a mixture of organic matter containing sand, silt or clay, is the most finely balanced soil of any other soil type. It's made up of roughly 40 per cent sand, 40 per cent silt and 40 per cent clay, notes Qondio.com. Because loam soil is balanced, it's the most widely used soil, having a higher nutrient value than other soils for general gardening or agriculture purposes.
Good Water Retention
Soil can hold water in two ways. The film coverings on soil particles is one method. Another way soil retains water is by the pore spaces between soil particles, says the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Water infiltrating into soil, due to irrigation or rainfall, results in pore spaces that are almost filled with water. Most water moves during or immediately following rainfall or irrigation. Water continues to move afterward because of gravity and capillary forces. Therefore, capillary or passageway forces are critical for holding water in soil pores. Loam holds moisture and nutrients better than sandy soil because it has larger particles.
Loam offers good drainage. Soil drainage is the rate and degree at which water moves in soil. Drainage includes the movement of water across a soil surface, as well as how well it moves downward through soil. While insufficient water can cause plants to wilt and eventually die, excess water can lead to plant roots suffocating because of insufficient oxygen. The best soil mixture is that, such as found in loam, in which about 50 per cent of the soil's pore space is occupied by water, according to the University of Arizona.
Loam soil is easily cultivated, particularly for preparing planting beds. Heavier soils such as clay usually are avoided because they're not amendable. Soil amendment is the process of adding additional materials to soil for enhancing its quality. Loam doesn't need to have additional organic matter or extra humus content added to the soil. However, loam soil that is either clay- or sand-based may need soil amendments, depending on the degree of clay or sand particles.