Sandy soil is dry and gritty to the touch, and because the particles have huge spaces between them, it can’t hold on to water.Water drains rapidly, straight through to places where the roots, particularly those of seedlings, cannot reach. Plants don’t have a chance of using the nutrients in soil.
Clay soil has the smallest particles among the three so it has good water storage qualities. It’s sticky to the touch when wet, but smooth when dry.Due to the tiny size of its particles and its tendency to settle together, little air passes through its spaces. Because it’s also slower to drain.
Silty soil has much smaller particles than sandy soil so it’s smooth to the touch. When moistened, it’s soapy slick. When you roll it between your fingers, dirt is left on your skin.Silty soil retains water longer, but it can’t hold on to as much nutrients as you’d want it to though it’s fairly fertile.
Peaty soil is dark brown or black in color, soft, easily compressed due to its high water content, and rich in organic matter. Peat soil started forming over 9,000 years ago, with the rapid melting of glaciers.
Loam is dark in color and is mealy—soft, dry and crumbly—in your hands. It has a tight hold on water and plant food but it drains well, and air moves freely between soil particles down to the roots.
Chalky soils are alkaline, so will not support ericaceous plants that need acid soil conditions. Very chalky soils may contain lumps of visible chalky white stone. Such soils cannot be acidified.