Loam / by Karie Luidens


Sand or silt, a pinch of clay; all just man-made terms for categories that we impose on natural complexity. The soil in my backyard is what it is regardless of what name I decide to give it, and I’ll learn far more about its qualities by kneeling and sinking my hands in it over the course of the growing season than I will from inspecting a sample in a jar anyway. 

A funny thing about testing soil’s texture is that regardless of what we conclude about any given specimen, the advice for improving it—gradually coaxing it toward that healthy mix called loam—comes down to the same basic principles for everyone. 

First of all, you can’t fundamentally change the soil’s texture. The mix of particle sizes in any given area is determined by eons and eons of geological activity, and a few human actions won’t suddenly wear sand down into clay or build clay up into sand across a significant swath of land. 

But, significantly, you can enrich soils of any texture by preventing erosion and compaction, and by incorporating more and more organic matter into its mineral particles over time.