Soils of Eastern Idaho

Kim Johnson Landscaping, Plant Care


Planet Earth is an amazing orb in our part of the universe compared to almost anything within our current range of vision. Earth’s distance from the sun and the abundance of water provide the essentials of life so much more abundantly than anywhere we currently know.

One of the more amazing things about our earth I have come to realize is what we call earth …. soil. That substance that you walk-on and can roll in your fingers is also the substance that provides nearly everything we need to survive and is especially important to our food supply.

Soils very dramatically around the world based mostly on temperature and rainfall which means our soils here in eastern Idaho very dramatically from many other areas of the world. Our soil is greatly affected by volcanic ash deposited thousands of years throughout the snake River plain ago by wind. Melting snow from our high mountains also anciently deposited soils in our floodplain. Organic material in our soils are also affected by relatively low annual rainfall and seasonal temperatures. All these elements do combine to make a soil that is particularly good for growing potatoes! Because of irrigation water readily available most years, we are able to grow many other crops including landscape and garden plants.

Our soils Eastern Idaho are generally alkaline soils (higher pH) which results in less salts being leached from the soil and a lower amount of organic material is created. This can cause challenges for plants that are need certain nutrients that can be tied up in alkaline soils such as iron. Iron is vital for the formation of chlorophyll which is necessary in photosynthesis or food production in the plant.

Most soils in our area are silt loam or silty clay loam which simply means the silt or clay particle sizes are generally smaller than sand and results in heavier soil. The soils contain more nutrients but soil atmosphere (especially oxygen) is lower which make it more difficult for roots to grow. We do have a few sandy loam soil areas but they are less common. The growth of plant material in soil over time tends to lower pH and increase organic material as well as soil structure, all of which are very beneficial for growing plants. This effect improves soil structure and helps soils drain better and provide microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria which greatly aid in plant growth as well.

All of the nutrients that plants need come from soil. Some are needed in quantity (primary) others not as much (secondary) and some are only needed in very small quantities (micro nutrient). All have their purpose and some plants require more of some than others. There is not enough time in this discussion to cover all the specifics of nutrients but know plants will suffer without them. If you are concerned about your soil, consult with our horticulturist and/or arrange for a soil test which can reveal much about what the soil may need.

It is truly amazing to see what can grow out of our soils when combined with water and sunshine. The fun part is with very little effort anyone can achieve some success in growing plants in our landscape or gardens and at the same time help extract carbon dioxide and inject more oxygen into our atmosphere!