Understanding the Significance of Soil

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In Lee County we are blessed (and possibly cursed) with a variety of different soil types. We are in the Piedmont, Sandhills and have a small part in the Coastal Plain. So what does this mean? Where you live could have a different soil type than someone 10 minutes down the road. Soils are made up of three different particles, sand, silt and clay. Sand is the largest particle and water drains through it easily, silt is the second largest particle and provides good aeration and water holding capacity, with the third soil particle being clay, which is the smallest of the three and can hold a lot of water.

Our soil surface in the county is mostly a sandy loam or loam. Loam is a mixture of sand, silt and clay but the percentage of each soil particle is what actually makes it a loam. Loam is made up of more silt and sand than clay and loam has less sand in it than sandy loam. With our county being made up of more loam and sandy loam soils, most areas are well drained or moderately well drained. This means the soil lets water percolate through it and does not allow it to pool on the surface. Think of the past few thunderstorms we have had and consider how quickly the soil allows the rainwater to pass through without pooling at the surface. This type of drainage is ideal for gardening as it lets the water find its way through the soil without lingering on the surface and drowning your plants. However, with these types of well drained soils, dry weather can have an impact on your garden so consider irrigating in the morning during prolonged hot and dry weather.

Regardless of your soil type it is important to get a soil sample every three years for your lawn or garden. Here at the McSwain Center located at 2420 Tramway Rd in Sanford you can get soil sample forms and boxes to be sent off to Raleigh to get tested. If you have questions about your soil or soil sample results call North Carolina Cooperative Extension- Lee Center at 919-775-5624.

Jared Butler is the Agriculture Agent, Field Crops and Livestock for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.