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Soils : Soil types

Distribution of soil types

Soil types are described according to their main constituents. Thus, soil with a lot of sand is a sandy soil; soil with a lot of clay is a clay soil; and soil with a lot of organic material is an organic soil. Because this is usually peat, it is generally called peaty soil.

If soil has a good balance of all the important constituents – sand, silt, clay and organic material, but no preponderance of any one of them, it is called a ‘loam’. It might tend a little towards sand or clay and this would define it as a ‘sandy loam’ or ‘clay loam’.

Sandy loam might also be dscribed as a light loam; clay loam might be called heavy loam. The terms are interchangeable. Some soils contain a lot of stones or shale and can be called stony, or shaly loams.

Distribution of soil types

Potato pushes through a ridge of soil

Potato pushes through a ridge of soil

There are peaty soils and other very poor soils associated with them in parts of many counties in the midlands, west and north particularly in mountainous areas, but most Irish soils are loams.

There are well-drained, sandy or shaly loams in part of Kerry, East Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford, Wicklow, Dublin, Louth, Armagh, Down, Derry and Antrim. These are easy soils to work, but need plenty of manure and fertiliser.

Parts of these counties and Tipperary, East Limerick, Kildare, East Galway, Laois, Offaly, East Donegal, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Sligo and Roscommon, have medium-heavy loam soils. These are generally good, fertile soils, not quite as easy to work, but easier to keep fertile.

Counties Westmeath, Meath, Dublin, Roscommon, Longford, North Kildare, West Limerick, Clare, Cavan, Sligo, Monaghan, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Armagh, have clay loam soils that are heavy in varying degrees. Most of these soils are derived from glacial boulder clay deposits and can be stony. They are fairly fertile soils, but often difficult to work and need high potash fertilisers.

In counties Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, Clare, Fermanagh, Tyrone and parts of other counties, impeded drainage adds to the heavy nature of the soil, making cultivation difficult and limiting growth.

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