Planting Fruit Tree Sapling - Plant Care - Bayer Garden

Soil types and its effect on the growth of your tree


The characteristics of soil can vary considerably, depending on the size of the ground rock particles it contains.

A fruit tree requires soil that is deep and fertile; it should be free from stagnant water.  Generally, the roots of the tree will not exceed 60cm in depth and it is this soil level that is of greatest importance for the growth of your tree. 

Most soil will produce good results and can be cultivated successfully.  However, with the correct treatment, it is very easy to improve the land and create the optimum environment to ensure that a fruit tree flourishes.

Types of soil:

The characteristics of soil can vary considerably, depending on the size of the ground rock particles it contains.   Essentially, there are three key types of soil:

  • Light clay
  • Medium clay
  • Heavy clay

 The type of soil is identified by the percentage of particles and some are a mixture of all of the three types.   The dominating particle determines the type of soil and how it will behave.  In order to cultivate the land, it is essential to understand the type of soil on the land.

Understanding soil types:

  • Coarse sandy or light gravel soil: Soils that are rich in sand or gravel absorb and release water with ease.  Its ability to drain quickly also results in a loss of nutrients, making it a poor quality soil.  Peach and apricot trees can grow in this type of soil.  
  • Medium-texture soils:  Rich in humus, which is the organic, decomposed animal and vegetable matter that is essential for fertility in soil, medium texture soil is incredibly fertile and easy to work with.  Suitable to cultivate any type of plant, it is rich in nutrients and absorbs water very well.
  • Dense, heavy clay:  This soil type is mainly composed extremely fine particles that can be 1000 times smaller than sand.  The particles compact easily and when the weather is hot, the soil becomes very dry, solid and often cracks.  When subjected to rain it becomes sticky and takes time to release the water.  It is difficult for air and plant roots to move through this type of soil and if left untreated, it is unsuitable for fruit trees. 

How to improve soil

Regardless of the soil type, it is possible change its nature and improve its composition to make it more suitable for growing your chosen crop. 

For both light sandy soils and dense heavy clay, annually adding an organic material such as homemade compost, manure or leafmould combined with topsoil and peat will help to improve the texture and as a result, the nutrient content of the soil.

Adding organic matter binds sandy soils together improving its water and nutrient retention.  While adding an organic matter to clay breaks up the soil to improve its drainage.  For best results, sandy soils should be treated in late winter/early spring and clay soils in autumn/winter.

Identifying soil types

  • Sandy soil: Gritty to the touch, it is difficult to compact or roll into a ball, it will not take shape.
  • Medium texture soil: Soft to the touch and will take shape but is difficult to retain its shape and will hold moisture.
  • Dense heavy clay: Takes shape easily and can be rolled into a ball but when wet, it is so water soaked, you can squeeze it like a sponge in your hands.