Identifying Your Soil Type

Soils are generally described according to the predominant type of soil particle present - sand, silt, or clay. By conducting a simple soil test, you can easily see what kind of soil you're dealing with. You may want to repeat this test with several different soil samples from your lawn and garden.

  1. Fill a quart jar about 1/3 full with topsoil and add water until the jar is almost full.
  2. Screw on the lid and shake the mixture vigorously, until all the clumps of soil have dissolved.
  3. Now set the jar on a windowsill and watch as the larger particles begin to sink to the bottom.
  4. In a minute or two the sand portion of the soil will have settled to the bottom of the jar (see illustration). Mark the level of sand on the side of the jar.
  5. Leave the jar undisturbed for several hours. The finer silt particles will gradually settle onto the sand. You will find the layers are slightly different colors, indicating various types of particles.
  6. Leave the jar overnight. The next layer above the silt will be clay. Mark the thickness of that layer. On top of the clay will be a thin layer of organic matter. Some of this organic matter may still be floating in the water. In fact, the jar should be murky and full of floating organic sediments. If not, you probably need to add organic matter to improve the soil's fertility and structure.
soil samples
pH Plant Preference Lists
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See also...

How pH Affects Plant Foods
Finding Soil's pH
Raising Soil pH
Lowering Soil pH
pH Plant Preference Lists

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