Testing Your Soil At Home to find out the texture

With a little practice, the home gardener can see and feel soil structure, but overall fertility is more difficult to determine. If you are remodeling your landscape, planting a lawn for the first time, or if your garden doesn’t seem to be a s vigorous as you expected despite constant care, have a soil test done.

You can take a soil sample from your garden to a state agency or even your local home and garden center and have tests run to determine what the texture of your soil is so that you know what types of plants will do the best in your garden or you can save a little money and a lot of time and test at home.

Before you do any kind of home test the first thing that you need to do is take a sample profile so that you see the layers of the soil that you’re working with and see what’s there. In order to take a good soil profile find the center of the space that you’re going to be using as a garden, or the approximate center, and dig. Dig a hole that’s about two feet wide and deep enough that you can climb into it to see the layers of the soil. If you get down into the hole you should be able to see the strata, or the layers of soil that extend downward.

The first layer, the layer of soil on top, should be dark because it’s composed of soil and decaying plant matter and other items that make it rich with nutrients. The layers underneath should be able to give you an idea of what the soil really is made of. Clay is much lighter than other types of soil and there’s no mistaking the texture of sand so you should be able to get at least a general idea of how much sand and how much clay is in the soil from the soil profile. In order to find out exactly how much of each component is in the soil and what the pH of the soil is you’ll have to do some actual tests.

The soil-test report will tell you whether the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in your soil are low, medium, high or excessive. The soil analysis will also report your soil’s pH level and will indicate the levels of critical minerals like calcium and magnesium. Finally, most reports will indicate the percentage of organic material found in your soil.

Wash Test

A wash test is a quick and fairly accurate way to find out what type of soil that you have in your garden. Use an old half gallon canning jar or a large glass jar that has a lid. You’ll also need a half of a cup of soil from the pit that you used for your soil profile or from the center of the garden. Mix that with two tablespoons of sodium nitrate to loosen up the bonds that hold the different components of the soil together. Then fill the jar half full of water. Close the lid.

Swirl the water and the soil together for about 30 seconds and then let the mixture settle. Do that again several times. The water will cause the soil to separate into its component parts. The sand will drop to the bottom. The light clay will rise to the top. And the silt will swirl in the middle and form a middle layer. Once the soil has fully separated and come to rest you can see exactly how much clay, how much sand, and how much silt is in the soil.

Wash tests are a home version of a test that a professional would do in a lab so the results aren’t foolproof but most of the time they are accurate enough to give you the information that you need about the composition of the soil without requiring a lot of time or an expensive soil test. A pH test can also be done at home with a kit that you can buy at any home and garden center.

Soil pH

The pH of the soil is also very important. Soil can be neutral, acidic, or alkaline, which is shown by the pH reading. Areas that get a lot of precipitation in the winter tend to be more acidic, while deserts and other hot, dry climates tend to be alkaline. The pH scale goes from 1-14. Any soil that has a pH level of 7 is neutral. Most plants thrive in neutral soil so when you’re preparing soil for planting you want to get the pH level as close to a 7 as possible. Any pH levels under 7 are acidic and pH levels over 7 are alkaline.