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For those moving to Florida, sand is the new soil!

Although scientists use many methods to classify soil, we -gardeners- usually describe soil using words like “sandy,” “clay,” and “loam.” These terms describe a soil’s texture. Knowing your soil’s texture will help you predict how it will behave under different conditions and the species of plants to use in your garden. It’s the first step toward staging the best conditions for the plants you want to grow. 

A soil’s texture is determined by the mineral particle sizes it contains. Sand – the most common soil texture in Central Florida-, silt, and clay — the mineral particles in the soil — is derived from rock broken down over thousands of years by climatic and environmental conditions (rain, glaciers, wind, rivers, animals, etc.). 

The ratio of particle sizes affects the amount of pore space — the space between the mineral particles — and therefore the amount of air and water a soil can hold. It also affects other characteristics. The smaller the soil particles, for example, the more they bind together when wet. Thus, clay soils (commonly found at The Villages, Florida) can be sticky and difficult to work. Clay drain poorly and have less pore space for air, so roots may suffer from a lack of oxygen. However, clay soils are often rich in plant nutrients. In contrast, sandy soils can drain water too quickly for healthy plant growth and tend to be low in nutrients, but they are easier to work.  

In general, native plants thrives in sandy soils and need little or one soil amendment. Adding organic material, such as pine straw, can offset many of the problems associated with either extreme. We recommend considering the plant that best performs in the type of soil you have first. 

While there’s no such thing as a perfect soil, different plants grow best in different types of soil. Most common plants in this region prefer sand — compared to loam soils with a balance of different-sized mineral particles (approximately 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay) with ample organic matter and pore space commonly found in northern states of the US. However, some plants grow better in loam soils, while others are well-adapted to clay soils and we happen to have those plants in Florida that thrive in those soils. 

In summary, it is easier to use the right plants for the type of soil you have instead of amending the soil to accommodate an exotic plant. It is environmentally friendly as it requires less to keep them happy and attract butterflies.  

To encourage butterflies to reside in your garden, it’s best to include food sources in the form of host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for butterflies (native plants are usually the best options). А butterfly’s wish list also includes sunny open spaces, shelter from the wind, and freshwater. It’s also crucial to opt for using native plant varieties in your garden, as these will be the most beneficial to the butterflies and caterpillars in your area. Be in the lookout for our butterfly garden post.  

Ha! …and you were wondering what the butterfly video above had anything to do with soil!

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