Soil and Mulch Information


There are many different soil types in our region. Clay, sand, or loam soil mixtures are scattered throughout the North Texas area, with clay being the most common. In West Texas: predominantly sand or loam soil mixtures are scattered throughout the West Texas area, with sandy loam being the most common. It is important for you to know your predominant soil type since it will determine which plants to select, watering techniques to use, and to what extent fertilizers will be needed.

Use a simple soil test to give you a rough idea about the predominant soil type where you are planting. Perform this test when the soil has a moist feel, as opposed to being dry or wet to the touch. Squeeze a ball of soil in your hand. Next press the soil between your thumb and fingers.

Clay soil feels smooth and sticky. It forms ribbons when pressed between your fingers. Loam soil is smooth, slick, partially gritty and sticky. It forms a ball that crumbles easily. Sandy soil is loose and very gritty. It will fall apart instead of forming a ball.

Now you know something about your soil type. Be sure to purchase plants suitable for your soil type or amend your soil to support them. Please note that almost any soil in North Central Texas and West Texas will benefit from the addition of organic matter, such as compost (either commercial or homemade). For every 1,000 square feet, add about 3 cubic yards of organic material.

If you need any additional information about soils in this area, please contact your County Extension Agent or your local plant nursery.



Mulch reduces water loss from the soil, reduces weeds, moderates soil temperatures and prevents soil erosion. Good stuff!!!

Mulch prevents the hot drying Texas sun and wind from causing rapid evaporation from the soil surface. This reduces soil cracking. Since most roots absorb water and nutrients close to the soil surface, cracking will tear roots and stress the plants.

Mulch will reduce weeds and cut down on weeding chores. Mulch prevents germination of many wind blown seeds. The few that do sprout are easily plucked.

Soil erosion is reduced because mulch breaks the impact of raindrops and irrigation water on soil. Water also soaks into mulch instead of running off as it often does on uncovered soil.

Soil fertility is increased by direct leaching of nutrients from the mulch as well as from decomposition of the mulch.

Soil compacting is reduced by the mulch surface dispersing the weight of people, pets, and wheelbarrows.

Mulch moderates the soil temperature by keeping it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Diseases are reduced because the mulch reduces splashing of water from the soil to the leaves, which can spread some disease organisms. By keeping the soil moisture even, mulch eliminates plant stress that can make a plant susceptible to diseases.

Almost any organic matter makes good mulch. You can use yard wastes and plant debris as well as commercial products.


Compost is the result of decayed organic matter such as yard trimmings or kitchen scraps and provides nutrients to the soil. It also adds beneficial microbes, attracts worms, and helps retain moisture in the soil.

When compost is amended or mixed into the soil, it provides nutrients to the plants so that commercial fertilizer is not needed. Also, if in the future you do use fertilizer, the water retaining properties of the compost will ensure the fertilizer is absorbed into the soil and doesn't get carried off polluting our waters when it rains.

The beneficial microbes in compost will help break down the mulch over time into plant-available nutrients, providing a constant food source for your thriving plants and eliminating the need for commercial fertilizer.

Visit for more information about how you might be able to obtain free mulch or compost from your city, or how make your own compost using a variety of methods, from worms to bokashi. This compost will perform better than any commercial fertilizer on the market and you can feel good about not sending food and yard waste to the landfill.

Garden with mulch

Visit for more information about backyard composting using the hot or cold methods, vermicomposting, and bokashi composting.