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Questionnaire: Are You a Soil Expert?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 28 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Lawn Soil Soil Types Ph Particles Clay

Soil has a huge influence on plant growth, and although grasses in general are less fussy than many kinds of garden shrubs and flowers, what type of soil you have can still make a big difference to the cultivation and routine management of your lawn.

Most people can tell sand from gravel without too much trouble, but when it comes to the properties, particles and pH of individual soil types, for many of us it all gets to be a little more complicated. Here’s your chance to test your own knowledge with our quick quiz to help you find out how much of a soil expert you are; the answers are at the bottom – so have fun, and good luck!

1. How many main soil types are there?

  • a) 2
  • b) 6
  • c) 12

2. Which of these soil particles is the BIGGEST?

  • a) Clay.
  • b) Silt.
  • c) Sand.

3. Which of the following is NOT a property of clay soils?

  • a) Poor drainage.
  • b) Heavy to work.
  • c) Quick to warm up in spring.

4. What helps to make clay soils fertile?

  • a) The nutrients bound to the surface of the clay particles.
  • b) The dark colour of the particles themselves.
  • c) The large air spaces between the particles.

5. Which of the following could be described as an ‘ericaceous’ soil?

  • a) Chalky soil.
  • b) Peaty soil.
  • c) Loam.

6. Chalky soils are often called “limey”; what would you expect their pH to be?

  • a) 6
  • b) 7
  • c) 8

7. Which of these soils is the FASTEST draining? ?

  • a) Sand.
  • b) Loam.
  • c) Clay.

8. Which soils naturally contain the most organic matter?

  • a) Clay and silt.
  • b) Sand and chalk.
  • c) Peat and loam.

9. Compaction is a particular potential problem for which of these soils?

  • a) Clay and silt.
  • b) Sand and chalk.
  • c) Peat and loam.

10. A soil is made up of 2 parts sand, 2 parts silt and 1 part clay – what is it?

  • a) Loam
  • b) Sub-soil
  • c) Peat


1. b) there are 6 main soil types – clay, sandy, silty, peaty, chalky and loam – and get yourself off to a flying start with a BONUS POINT if you could name all six.

2. c) sand particles are the biggest at between 0.05–2mm in size; silt is next (0.002–0.05mm) and smallest of the lot at under 0.002mm is clay. Have another BONUS POINT if you could put them in the right order.

3. c) clay soils are slow– not quick – to warm up in spring.

4. a) the nutrients bound to the surface of the particles help to make clay soils potentially very fertile.

5. b) acidic soils such as peat are known as ‘ericaceous’.

6. c) a pH of 8 would be right for an alkaline or limey soil; 7 is a neutral soil, while 6 would be a slightly acidic one.

7. a) sand is the fastest to drain, and clay the slowest..

8. c) peat and loam soils naturally contain the most organic matter.

9. a) clay and silty soils are the most prone to compaction, which obviously has to be taken into consideration when it comes to planning your approach to cultivation and lawn management.

10. a) the mixture of 2 parts sand, 2 parts silt and 1 part clay is a loam, and widely recognised as the ‘perfect’ garden soil.

So, How Did You Do?

  • 12 – A perfect loam!
  • 7 to 11 – Full of minerals.
  • 3 to 6 – Good structure.
  • 0 to 2 – Slow to warm up.

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