What is Loam Soil?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Loam soil is a soil characterized by roughly equal amounts of clay, silt, and sand. This soil is usually regarded as a gardening ideal, because it promotes the growth of healthy plants. Some soil is naturally loamy, and other soil must be amended to acquire loamy characteristics. Within the large grouping of loam soil, there are a number of lesser soil types such as clay loam and silty loam, differentiated by the precise balance of components in the soil.

It can take years to amend hard clay-like soil.
It can take years to amend hard clay-like soil.

Soil can take centuries to build up and reach a point of balance in nature. It includes a wide assortment of materials, and the composition of a soil can determine what can be grown in it. Loamy soil tends to be loose, which is good for plants, and it is also usually rich in nutrients, which means that it requires less fertilizer and nutritional amendments. People can tell if soil is loamy by picking up the soil when it is moist and compressing it; it should break apart into loose chunks. If the soil clings together in a ball, it's clay soil, and if it feels gritty, it's sandy soil.

Loam soil is usually regarded as a gardening ideal, because it promotes the growth of healthy plants.
Loam soil is usually regarded as a gardening ideal, because it promotes the growth of healthy plants.

For people fortunate enough to have loam soil from the start, the soil often requires little care. Working in organic materials can increase the nutritional value of the soil and keep it in good condition, and it is a good idea to protect the topsoil with mulch and cover plants which will prevent topsoil loss. Loam soil drains well, while holding enough water to keep plants happy, provides a steady supply of nutrients, and has a structure which promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms which will keep the soil healthy.

Gardeners without loam soil will need to embark on a soil amendment program. This can take years to fully come to fruit, and should be thought of as a long term project. Soil improvement starts with soil testing to learn more about the composition of the soil and to determine what needs to be added. Additives can be tilled in, and the soil can be planted. Each year, additional additives may be needed to improve the balance in the soil, until the soil stabilizes with healthy microorganisms which will start to keep the soil healthy.

Loam soil has been highly prized by gardeners for thousands of years. Many of the areas of the world known for having ancient civilizations had, at least at one point, loam soil. However, it is sobering to note that some of these areas were over farmed and poorly managed, and they lost their rich, healthy topsoil. It is important to take care of the soil so that it will continue to be healthy for the life of a garden and for the benefit of future generations.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


So what should I do? I really want to get started planting in planting in the spring, but I need some information first. Can anybody help me out?


I really liked this article because it highlighted the importance of good soil for gardening.

I think that one of the biggest mistake that beginning or inexperienced gardeners make is to not get a good soil profile done before they start growing.

This is such a shame, since soil really is such a crucial component of getting good growth out of any kind of plant. You wouldn't plant a succulent in a rainforest, just like you wouldn't try to plant a water lily in the desert.

Although these examples are a little bit extreme, the truth of the example stands. Unless you have that perfect clay loam soil, then you really do need to take the time to match your plants to your soil, or you just won't get the best results.

Anyway, just thought I would put my two cents in to try and help amateur gardeners avoid making a common mistake. Hope that this helps somebody, and if you need any more advice about matching plants and soil, I've got about 40 years of gardening, so feel free to message me.


Can anybody tell me where to buy loam soil? I have recently moved into an area with a small garden, but the soil here is terrible, all clay and gravel, so I was thinking that I might do better to just do porch gardening.

Unfortunately, apparently no one else in my area gardens, because I can't find a gardening store or anywhere that sells dirt to save my life.

Are there any good, reputable online stores that sell lawn soil? I am just so hesitant to place an order with any company and then end up with a bunch of useless soil -- if I wanted that I could just go out into my backyard!

So does anybody have any advice? I'd really appreciate it! Thanks, y'all.


So how exactly can I do a soil profile at home? I have recently moved into a new house with a huge garden area, but I really don't know what kind of soil the area has, so I'm hesitant to plant things without knowing what I'm getting into.

Before I moved here, I was just kind of an urban gardener, so all my soil came in nice little boxes with planting recommendations and the like. So now when I've got this huge expanse of garden to use, I'm not sure what to plant!

A friend told me that I should take a soil sample to try and see my soil's texture, but I really don't know how to do that -- I mean, all soil just looks kind of crumbly to me.

So what should I do? I really want to get started planting in the spring, but I need some information first...can anybody help me out?


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