Your Soil

Depending on where you live you may have sand, silt or clay soil. Each type has different characteristics including the size of its particles, its color and its ability to hold water. Often, soil does not consist of just one type, but is a mixture.

Here in Washington County, we mostly have clay soil. Clay soil feels sticky and has tiny particles which allow it to absorb and hold water. When dry, clay soil forms a brick-like crust that is difficult to work with.

Soil Components

Soil is made up of water, air, minerals (rock fragments), organic matter (anything that originated from a living thing) and millions of living microorganisms.

The minerals and organic matter provide the building blocks of soil, but the air and water in between are just as important. In fact, half of all soil should be pore space that contains air and water. Microorganisms decompose the organic material, provide nutrients for plants and help filter harmful chemicals.

Soil Health

The health of your soil is influenced by many things, some human-caused and others natural.


Soil compaction is caused when the pore spaces between soil’s building blocks get so squished that they can no longer hold air or water. Moving heavy equipment across the land, such as vehicles or construction equipment, and even heavy rainfall can lead to compaction.

Compacted soils can lead to a muddy mess. When rain hits compacted soil, it pools on top or quickly runs off, instead of soaking into the ground. This can cause a variety of problems including water pollution, flooding and erosion.


Erosion is caused when water or wind carry soil away. Erosion is a naturally occurring process, but it can become a problem when soil isn’t held in place by roots or covered by mulch or plants.


Soil disturbance comes in many forms. You can help reduce soil disturbance by:

  • Limiting the use of heavy machinery or vehicles that compact soil
  • Digging in soil only when necessary
  • Using nontoxic pest control from Metro’s Grow Smart, Grow Safe guide
  • Rotating livestock pastures