Seed Mix Establishment: Soil Type & Moisture Determination

Prairie wildflowers and grasses will tolerate a variety of soils and moisture levels. It is important, however, to determine the general soil type and soil moisture for each area that you intend to plant, in order to select the plants best adapted to your soil conditions. Soils can be generally classified as sands, clays, and loams.

SAND. Sandy or “light” soils are comprised of large, loosely packed, soil particles that drain easily and are easy to work. Sandy soils also tend to be low in nutrients and slightly acidic.

CLAY. Clays or “heavy” soils consist of small, tightly packed, soil particles that drain poorly and are difficult to work. They can, however, be rich in nutrients and very productive.

LOAM. Loams or “mesic” soils, the intermediate soil type between sand and clay, are usually very fertile and are composed of a variety of different sized soil particles. This particle diversity provides good moisture holding capacity and drainage, which is an excellent medium for most prairie plants.

DETERMINING SOIL TYPE

Rub a small amount of moist soil between your thumb and fingers. A clay soil will be slick and smooth, while a sandy soil will be gritty and fall apart easily. A loamy soil will feel gritty, although not as gritty as sand, and stick together easier than sand but not as tenaciously as clay. When loamy soil dries it has the texture of flour.

DETERMINING SOIL MOISTURE

The soil moisture content varies according to the soil type and location of the soil relative to the groundwater level.

MOIST SOILS occur relatively close to groundwater levels and dry and medium are relatively far from them. Moist soils could be sands, clays, or loams, which hold water throughout the growing season.

DRY SOILS include sandy soils, or soils mixed with gravel which rarely accumulate standing water, even after a heavy rain.

MEDIUM OR MESIC SOILS include clays and loams, which, unlike the dry soils, may accumulate standing water following a heavy rain for one to three days depending on the amount and intensity of the rainfall.

Up next: Site Preparation Options


Designed for areas of 1000 square feet or more, we’ve designed 24 native seed mixes for virtually any soil or condition:  http://www.prairienursery.com/store/seed-mixes


Establishing a native plant seed mix is a long-term investment in your landscape, which requires careful planning. When questions arise a one-on-one conversation may be the best way to get the information you need. Don’t hesitate to call us at 800-476-9453, Mon. – Fri., 8am – 5pm, CST. Or, email us at cs@prairienursery.com. We are happy to discuss individual complexities in order to make your planting a success.