Tips on Modifying your California Soil with Amendments

Soil is everything to a plant trying to take root and a gardener attempting to grow their desired harvest. The ideal soil consists of a balance of sand, loam, clay, organic matter, minerals, water, and air, but rarely do we get to start with the perfect combination. Determining what type of soil you have, first and foremost, will help you learn what it requires to create optimal conditions for growth. We suggest testing your California soil with a home kit or consulting a soil specialist prior to altering its composition in any way. Once you know what you’re working with, you’ll easily be able to determine what amendments will work best.

California Soil Types

To gain a preliminary understanding of California soil types, let’s first look at basic characteristics of regions throughout the state. Since most California soils are a mixture of weathered rock, volcanic ash and plant residues, your soil will most likely be sandy, loamy, or claylike.

Sandy Soils in California

Found near and around the coast where there are mountain foothills, rivers, and streams. Sandy soils are 80 to 100 percent sand, up to 10 percent silt, and up to 10 percent clay. They are light and free draining, but lack organic content and water retention. Sandy soils adapt well to amendments, especially when it comes to their pH balance.

Loamy Soils in California

This favorable mix of sand and clay can be found in valleys or flat areas surrounding rivers and streams. With a composition of 25 to 50 percent sand, 30 to 50 percent silt, and 10 to 30 percent clay by volume, they contain a plethora of nutrients, retain moisture well, and have the ability to drain at a proper rate.

Clay Soils in California

Soils in southern California are predominately clay. Due to its small particle size, clay becomes easily compacted, which prevents drainage and air from reaching the roots. Although clay soil is typically rich in minerals, it is known for being heavy and difficult to work when dry, therefore it will need amendments to support plant life.

Why Use Soil Amendments

The definition of amend is to change or modify for the better, and that is exactly what soil amendments do. Unlike fertilizers, which add nutrients to the soil, amendments improve its physical properties, such as water retention, permeability, water infiltration, drainage, aeration, and soil structure. With these elements in play, roots have the ability to penetrate the surrounding soil more easily and access the available nutrients required for growth. Whereby fertilizers impact plant growth directly, soil amendments affect growth indirectly by helping fertilizers do the job they’re intended to do.

Best Types of Soil Amendments for California

Now that we know we’ll need amendments to improve the overall environment for plant growth, let’s look at a few specific products that will help refine your California soil type.

If you have sandy soil we recommend the following:

Ligna Peat

Ligna Peat is 100 percent pure, organic, and sustainably harvested redwood fiber. It is a sustainable alternative and provides beneficial organic matter for a long period of time without rapid decomposition. It is most commonly used for aeration and water retention within the soil.

Garden Compost

Garden Compost is composted green waste and is a rich amendment that is especially good for improving soils that are too sandy and drain too fast. The warm, recycled product may occasionally contain small inert debris, such as plastic or glass, thus we do not recommend it for areas that you are growing edible plant life.

If you are blessed with loamy soil, then we recommend the following all-purpose amendment.

Organic Amendment Mix

Amendment Mix is a blend of Organic Green Waste Garden Compost, Redwood Sawdust, and Organic Feather Meal. This mix is generally used for improving soils’ water retention and aeration. Amendment Mix helps open up clay for rainwater to be held and moved through the soil. It’s an excellent choice for new sod installations and for generic all-purpose soil amending.

If you are working with clay soils, please see the following products that can help improve its manageability and composition.

¼” Fir Bark

¼” Fir Bark consists of the smallest remaining particles after sifting through fir barks. Mix it in with clay soil to loosen and aerate as an organic amendment. It provides moisture retention and aeration, but – due to the small size of the bark – it breaks down faster than other amendments.

516” Horticulture Lava

This is a lightweight horticultural lava that is best used as an amendment to aerate clay and other soil mixes.

Redwood Sawdust

Redwood Sawdust is an all-natural redwood byproduct from lumber mills that has not been treated with any chemicals. It is typically used as a soil amendment to help break up clay and aerate compacted soil.

Your Soil Matters

Helping your soil be the best it can possibly be starts with familiarizing yourself with what you currently have and then learning what it needs to be more alive, organic, and fully supportive of plant life! Test for success with a home kit or consult a professional within your area. Once you know what you’re working with it will be easier to refer to these expert tips so that you can knowledgeably supply what is missing with an appropriate amendment. Whether your California soil is too sandy, loamy, or primarily clay based, we are positive you can modify its composition to achieve more desirable results.

If you have further questions or need assistance, our family at Lyngso is here to help! Please contact us.