6 Soil Types Every Food Plotter Should Know

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Can You Identify Each One?

Type: Chalky Soil

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1 | Type: Chalky Soil

Chalky soils generally have a rockier composition than the other five types. An alkaline-heavy type, chalky soils are somewhat unpredictable in their makeup. It is usually high in lime and/or calcium carbonate. This can lead to reduced growth. It can also result in discolored vegetation where growth does occur.

Common Geographic Locations: Chalky soils are fairly common and can be found in a wide range of states throughout the country.

Best Species to Plant: While it might seem as if it’s a bad soil type, there are numerous plant species that will grow in it. This is a more alkaline soil than acidic, so anything that prefers an acidic soil will not do well. Choose species that prefer an alkaline base. Cereal rye, buckwheat, winter peas and certain other options should be okay for this soil type under most conditions.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Xpixel

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Type: Silty Soil

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2 | Type: Silty Soil

Silty soil is made up of very small particles. This stuff is really smooth, compacts easily and holds water too well. It’s more fertile than most other soil types. That said, it doesn’t retain nutrients like some other types do. So, you’re left with that catch 22 cliché we all love to hate.

Those who have silty soils generally have to aerate more often than those who don’t have it. This can pose a problem for food plotters who work with a small set of tools and don’t have access to bigger equipment.

Common Geographic Locations: Silt is found in every state in the country. That said, it’s found in its highest concentrations in the Midwest, far Northwest, Northeast and down the Mississippi River corridor.

Best Species to Plant: Shrubs and fruits grow well in this. Trees that like more excessive moisture also do good in it. Those who like turnips and radishes will be happy to know they do fairly well, too. Oats, clover, soybeans (variety specific), corn, cereal rye, buckwheat, winter peas and certain other options should be okay for this soil type under most conditions.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Manfred Ruckszio

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Type: Sandy Soil

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3 | Type: Sandy Soil

A soil type that holds heat and quickly drains moisture, sandy soils are known for their acidity and inability to produce adequate nutrients. It’s easy to till and disk, but difficult to grow many plant species in.

This type traditionally has very little clay in it, which is why it drains water so well — too well, actually. Areas with this soil type often suffer from more erosion and loss of vegetation, especially with plants known for poor root system establishment.

Common Geographic Locations: This soil type can be found in almost every state. But it is commonly found in the Deep South along the eastern and gulf coasts (North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, etc.). High concentrations of it is also found in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and in and around Nebraska.

Best Species to Plant: Some types of shrubs do well in sandy soils. Crops such as peaches, corn and specific varieties of soybeans can grow in it as well. Chicory, clover, sunflowers, sorghum, soybeans (variety specific), corn (variety specific), chufa, lablab, buckwheat, winter peas and certain other options should be okay for this soil type under most conditions.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Anton Starikov

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Type: Clay Soil

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4 | Type: Clay Soil

Clay soil is what most people have and don’t want. It’s full of minerals, but gets waterlogged — making it hard to grow much. It’s very hard when conditions are dry. It’s extremely sticky when they’re wet.

Aside from sandy soils, clay is one of the most frustrating soil types to deal with. It makes growing certain things efficiently almost impossible. It also doesn’t get air the way other soil types do, which is another issue for most plant species.

Common Geographic Locations: This soil type is found throughout the country. However, it’s found primarily in the southern half of the 50 states, as well as in the Midwest. Ultimately, it can be found most prevalent in the states between those that are richest in sand and silt. Specific states include Kentucky, Tennessee, northern Georgia, northern Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, etc.

Best Species to Plant: This soil is better for perennials. Many types of shrubs and fruit trees (apple, crabapple, pear, etc.) do fairly well in this soil type. Clover, soybeans (variety specific), corn, winter peas and certain other options should be okay for this soil type under most conditions.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Anton Starikov

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Type: Peat Soil

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5 | Type: Peat Soil

This serves as a good soil base — but only if it has other soil types mixed in with it. Peat soil holds water more than it should. It also has a lot of nutrients readily available due to high levels of organic matter. That said, it can also have higher levels of acidity, which can lead to lower nutrient retention, conditions depending. This type of soil generally requires a good bit of lime to bring pH to a more desirable level.

Common Geographic Locations: Peat soils are fairly common and can be found in a wide range of states. That said, they’re found most often in areas that are boggy, marshy or swampy.

Best Species to Plant: Certain food plot species, such as brassicas and water-loving trees, and specific other options, should be okay for this soil type under most conditions.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Anton Starikov

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Type: Loamy Soil

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6 | Type: Loamy Soil

This is the ideal soil. It takes the most desirable elements of three different soil types (clay, sand and silt) and wraps them into one — drainable yet moist enough to be an extremely fertile seedbed. That said, it still doesn’t hurt to use fertilizer as needed.

Common Geographic Locations: This soil type is the most common in the Midwest, but concentrations of loam can be found — at least in small, focused areas — in the Northwest, Southeast and Northeast, too.

Best Species to Plant: At the risk of sounding facetious, I’ll say you can pretty much plant whatever you dang well please in a bed of good, loamy soil — with a few exceptions. But those exceptions are minimal, as most plant species will do well in loam. Alfalfa, clover, sunflowers, cowpeas, soybeans, corn, cereal rye, lablab, buckwheat, beets, winter peas and many other options should be okay for this soil type under most conditions.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Madlen

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Want More Food Plots and Land Management Content?

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7 | Want More Food Plots and Land Management Content?

Want more food plot content? Check out these five hard-hitting articles on growing the green for the deer you love to feed, manage and hunt.

  1. Native Shrubs That Hold Deer on Your Property

  2. 10 Food Plot Tips for People Who Like Shortcuts

  3. 10 Trees That Will Hold Deer on Your Hunting Property

  4. 12 Tips for Planting Oak Trees from Those You Already Hunt Over

  5. 13 Reasons You Have Bad Fortune with Food Plots

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Khadi Ganiev

Are you a hunter wanting to learn how to accomplish your goals? Check out our stories, videos and hard-hitting how-to's on food plots and land management.

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Soil. It’s where life begins and ends. Somewhat unsettling to think about? Perhaps. But not from a food plot planting standpoint. Soil is of the utmost importance for those who plant food plots for wildlife. If you don’t know soil, you don’t know food plots.

To plant a good food plot requires a basic understanding of soil composition. Soil management is important. Certain species of trees and other plants perform at different levels when planted in different soil types. Knowing what soil type a species prefers is very important. Planting the wrong thing in the wrong soil type can lead to a failed crop and a lost investment.

Knowing the acidity of the soil (pH) is also an important figure you should focus on during the planning stages of food plotting. A good, average soil pH range to be in is 5.5 to 7.0, but readings can show soil conditions well outside that desired medium. It’s all about potassium, phosphate, nitrogen, magnesium and other key nutrients.

Once you know the soil pH, you need to understand how to correct it based on your intentions. You can’t quickly change your soil type without bringing in dump-truck loads of new soil. But you can help correct the pH. But I digress. That’s another topic for another time. For those interested in getting their hands dirty, check out the six main soil types and how to identify them.

Disclaimer: Despite what you read here, and what you might think your soil type is, it's imperative to always take a soil sample analysis to determine what you should and should not plant; as well as to know what you should do to improve soil conditions. If looking to purchase land, such as through Realtree United Country, always sample the soil type before buying to be sure it meets standards and isn't beyond correction.