Soil type and quality are key factors in successful plant growing. Clay, silt, and sandy soils each have positive and negative characteristics relative to supporting healthy plants. Still, nature has provided fruit-, vegetable-, and herb-bearing trees, plants and shrubs to suit even soils that offer variously poor drainage, poor nutrient retention and poor aeration.
Clay soil is known for being somewhat inhospitable to plants. When wet, it is densely packed, poorly aerated, and difficult to work. When dry, it can crack, causing damage to roots and even ejecting plants from the soil altogether. That said, some types of plants grow well in clay soil. States GrowVeg.com, vegetables such as cabbages and broccoli will thrive in this type of soil. On the other hand, clay soil's dense texture prevents most root vegetables from developing well. According to Garden Illinois, fruit trees that can withstand clay soil include various types of crabapple, cherry and pear. Maple (amur, hedge, silver) and black walnut trees can also thrive. As to shrubbery that bears edible fruit, hardy perennials such as barberry, currant and dwarf quince will do well. You can also plant bushes to bear edible herbs, such as yarrow, columbine, red valerian, globe thistle and Russian sage.
The trouble with sandy soils is that they do not hold onto moisture. According to Purdue University Cooperative Extension, adding organic matter such as compost or peat will help the soil to sustain healthy plants. GrowVeg.com says root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips and turnips, will do quite well in sandy soil. States the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center (LSU AgCenter), pomegranate trees can also develop well in sandy soil, while citrus trees seem to be able to adjust to any soil type. In addition, says LSU AgCenter, fig trees, as "they prefer a well-drained site," are good candidates for this type of soil.
For edible herbs in sandy soil, Purdue University suggests such plants as creeping juniper and common thyme. Fruiting shrubs to suit this soil type include bayberry, bush clover and red chokeberry. According to Birds and Blooms, lavender will also fare well in sandy soil.
Silty soils have a weak structure, meaning they break up easily, so are easy to work in a garden setting. They offer better drainage than clay soils and better nutrient availability than sandy soils. Says Safe Gardening "Silty soil is the most fertile and lots of plants flourish in it." You can plant anything from lettuces, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables to carrots, turnips, and other root vegetables. Silty soils can support solid strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry development as well. According to the LSU AgCenter, pomegranate trees adapt well to silty soil. Citrus trees are also a good bet, as they tend to accommodate any type of soil.