Determine Your Soil Type
Let’s begin with the fundamentals. You probably see Soil Type preferences on the back of many seed packets. What is it and how do you know what your soil type is?
Soil type refers to the textural components of your soil. It's what makes up the structure of your soil. This is key because it affect how water moves through your soil profile. Different plants have been cultivated and adapted to grow in these various soil mixtures. Soil type also affects how often and how much water is ideal for your garden!
There are three key components of your soil profile Sand (the largest particles), Silt (mid sized particles) and Clay (the smallest particles). You can send your soil out to a lab to determine your soil structure, but you can also learn a lot by doing a simple test at home with a glass jar.
Here's an Easy Soil Type Test!
- Fill a clear glass jar with the top 6 inches of your soil! Avoid mulch and plant matters.
- Screw on the lid
- Shake, Shake, Shake, vigorously at least 2 minutes
- Let it sit for 2+ days
- Observe! Look at notice the lines where the particles have separated.
- Measure out the components. Sand (biggest aka heaviest) falls to the bottom, Silt settles in the middle, Clay toward the top. You may have other debris such as wood chips also float to the top.
- Using a ruler mark the line where you see a shift between components.
- Find the % of each component in the jar. Do this by dividing the inches of that component by the whole of the soil measurement. It should equal 100%.
Here are some simple examples of what you might see:
For example, here's how our farm's soil sample turned out:
- Total Mass: 3.3in =100%
- SAND 2.5/3.3 =75%
- SILT .6/3.3=18%
- CLAY .2/3.3 =7%
Just noticing which soil type you have in majority: sand, silt, or clay is a great start! And like most things, it's not usually quite that simple. Most of us will have a blend of types.
Use the fun chart below to figure out your soil type. Trace along the lines your percentages of sand, silt and clay and see where the 3 points intersect. That will give you a more precise description of your soil type. For example, we have a Loamy Sand.
Remember you might have different soil types in different areas of your garden, so you might consider taking a few different samples in different regions of your property.
Every soil type has it's strengths and challenges. Sand is great at drainage, but needs more frequent irrigation.I hope that was helpful! In a future post, we'll further explore the strengths and challenges of each soil type.