The People's Potatoes Growing Course

Module 2: Soils

An Introduction...


The potato can accommodate a wide range of soil types providing that drainage is sufficient and nutrients are available. The perfect soil is not likely to be found in any garden, they are made and maintained. Great gardening is about soil preservation and many find to their cost that one promising first season is followed by ever decreasing returns as the soil is not fed with organic material and nutrients. Here are some basic descriptions of soil and how to manage them!


Clay Soils


Very sticky and compacted and easy to crack in dry weather. Found in Lincolnshire and Kent and many other parts of the UK. These are the soil heavyweights and are potentially fertile as they hold nutrients bound within the clay minerals in the soil. The trick with clay soils is to dig and cultivate them to make them really friable.  On the good side, a clay soil can hold a high level of water and are slow to warm or cool - but they also drain slowly and are likely to crack when dry. Clay soils need to be lightened by the addition of compost or maybe sand. Some of the best show potatoes can come from this kind of soil.


Sandy Soils


These can look like a beach and blow all over the place. Often peat soils are light and also many over cultivated and underfed soils become light.  They have a high proportion of sand and little, if any, clay. The classic light soil drains quickly after rain or watering and is easy to cultivate. They can warm up more quickly in spring than other soil types. Due to their lack of organic matter they drain very quickly and require lots of water. Management of a sandy soil is about building up organic matter. Cow manure is particularly good. Sandy soils are often used for the growing of early crops.




These are our half way house and can be clay, peat or sandy based with silt (a mineral rich sediment). What makes such soils interesting is their balance allowing air, minimising compaction and holding a supply of organic matter. Loams are identified by their relative sponginess compared to the emptiness of sand and the heaviness of clay. However all soils including loams need maintaining.

© Alan Wilson 2017