Common Soil Problems and Solutions

It’s important to understand what type of soil you have in your yard so you can choose plants that will adapt to the environment. Learn how to test your soil and solve common soil problems.

Testing Your Soil

If you’re having problems with your soil, you can perform a test to determine its pH. pH is a unit of measurement of the acidity and alkalinity of soil. A Soil is acidic if it has a pH less than 7.0 and alkaline if it has a pH more than 7.0. Knowing if your soil is acidic or alkaline will help you get proper recommendations to correct the problem.


Alkaline Soil

Alkaline soil, or soil with a high pH, is very common in Utah. If the pH of your soil is too high, try working elemental sulfur into the soil regularly to help lower it. You can also select plants that adapt to alkaline soil, such as thyme, oregano, and clematis.


Acidic Soil

Acidic soil, or soil with a low pH, can be corrected by working lime into the soil to raise the pH. Try to choose plants that can adapt to low pH levels, such as rhododendrons, azaleas, and blueberries.


Clay Soil

Clay soils are composed of small, sticky particles that hold their shape when wet. When this type of soil is dry, it is very hard and compact. Clay soils are dense and do not allow water to move easily through them, which means they drain slowly. To improve clay soil, add organic matter such as compost, sphagnum peat moss, or aged manure and work it deeply into the soil using a shovel, digging fork, or rototiller.


Sandy Soil

Sandy soil is composed of large particles that are gritty to the touch. Sandy soil has the opposite issue as clay because it drains quickly, leaving little water for plants to soak up. The solution to improve sandy soil is the same as the solution to clay soil—work in organic matter such as compost, sphagnum peat moss, or aged manure. The organic matter will help slow the water’s travel through the soil and allow the plant material more time to drink it up.