Properties of Soil: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

Soil is more than just dirt that sticks to the bottom of your shoe. Learn about how the color of soil affects how well plants will grow and explore the different properties of soil in this lesson.

More Than Dirt!

How would you describe a flower to someone? Would you list its properties like color, smell or petal size?

Just like a flower, soil, the layer of Earth where plants grow, has properties we can describe: color, texture, structure and acidity. These properties can tell us how well plants will grow in a soil.

Color

The easiest property of soil to spot is its color. Color tells us about a soil's nutrients. For the most part, the darker a soil is, the more nutrients it has to support plant growth.

The dark color comes from decaying organic matter, materials from living things. Think about what happens to a banana as it starts to rot. The yellow peel turns black. This is the same process that happens to the organic matter in soil.

Soil comes in many colors.
Soil Color

Texture

Have you ever grabbed a handful of sand from a sandbox? You can see individual grains of sand as you hold it in your hand because sand is a type of soil made of large particles. The size of the particles that make up a soil are its texture.

A soil's texture determines how easily water can move through it. The larger the particles making up a soil are, the larger the pores (spaces) between the particles are. Large pores make it easy for air and water to move through soil. If water can move through soil easily, it is not stored for plants to use. This is bad news for most plants that need water around to grow.

Soil texture is based on particle size and affects how easily water can move through a soil.
soil texture

Structure

Soil structure describes the way particles in soil are stuck together to form shapes called peds, and the way those peds are arranged.

There are many different soil structures. Some soils have blocky peds shaped like cubes, while others have platy peds shaped like flat sheets of paper.

Soil particles stick together forming peds. The way peds are grouped in a soil is its structure.
soil structure

Just like texture, soil structure affects the way water and air move through soil. Different types of peds fit together in different ways- some soil structures have large spaces for water and air to travel through, while others have small spaces.

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