Imaginary experiment: Get two colanders and two large bowls. Fill the first colander with sand and the second with clay. Place each in a large bowl. Pour a quart of water over the sand in the first colander. Pour a second quart of water over the clay in the second colander. Predict: through which colander will the water drain quickest? You don’t even need to do this test to know that water will run more quickly through the colander with sand.
Sandy soils don’t hold onto water or nutrients as well as clay soils.
Clay soils compact easily and may have poor drainage, but they do a better job holding on to nutrients and water.
Analyzing how much sand, silt and clay is in your soil allows you to know which plants will do best in your soil. This analysis will tell you your soil’s texture. A soil’s texture is determined by the percentage of sand, silt and clay in the soil. Sand, Silt and Clay are the mineral elements of your soil, roughly 45% of what’s in your soil.
Plants evolved according to the texture of the soil in which the originally grew- some plants can thrive in a soil through which water drains quickly, others in do best in soils that hold onto water.
Certain ornamental grasses don’t require a lot of nutrients and have deep roots and can handle drought. They’ll do well in a sandier soil.
Many trees need a lot of nutrients and water to thrive. They’ll do better in soils with a higher percentage of clay particles.
Want to figure out the general texture of your soil? Check out this PDF from Colorado State: http://www.cmg.colostate.edu/gardennotes/214.pdf