Did you ever wonder what type of soil you had? Loamy (the good stuff), or clay or sandy. There are all types of soil and mixes and you might want to find out the composition before you garden so that you can foresee a drainage problem etc. There are great companies that can do a home soil test or even a full soil analysis for a fee. (These companies give a detailed report on your soil and show elements and composition too. Of course this method I am showing is not that comprehensive by a long shot.)
But you can do a simple free one at home with just a canning jar or any straight-sided jar you have available. This would show your soil’s clay/silt/sand ratio. More posts from my Backyard Flower Garden here. Of course, clean all the peanut butter out. Get me a spoon. I’ll help.
Home Soil Test Supplies:
- Clean jar and lid with straight sides
- A cup or two of garden soil
- 1 tsp of non-foaming liquid soap
- Mix soil & put into clean jar. Fill about 2/3 full of water and add 1 tsp soap. Shake until well mixed. Let set 24-48 hours.
- Check layers that have formed and measure each layer.
- Add total and then divide to get percentage for each layer.
If you like, mix up some soil from various places around the garden. Otherwise, test in one location and repeat the test in another location. It takes from 24hrs to 48hrs for the soil to settle in the jar, so you could make up several test jars and have them all processing at once.
I tested the soil in my shade garden. This garden has compost formed from falling maple leaves and is the run-off area for our home’s gutter system. The back side of the roof flows onto the gutters collecting on the main roof and also the garage roof. I didn’t collect from the end which has the drainage pipe which exits into the middle of the bed. I feel my garden soil and plant roots “filter” the water somewhat before it drains into the natural water systems. Here in the rear of our home, it goes slightly down hill and goes into a small stream which subsequently drains into larger and larger streams until it gets to the Little Miami River.
The Math Part of the Home Soil Test
Measure your total entire soil layer. Mine was 51 mm.
Then measure each separate layer as well as you can. Sometimes they are not well defined but get a good estimate.
Bottom is: Sand ( I had 30 mm)
Middle is: Silt ( I had 20 mm)
Top is : Clay ( I had 1 mm)
To get your percentages, calculate layer ÷ total = percentage
Using those numbers: Clay divided by total or 1 divided by 51 = 2%
Silt divided by total or 20 divided by 51 = 39.2%
Sand divided by total or 30 divided by 51 = 58.8%
Now just plug your numbers into this handy calculator to get your soil composition. Find it here at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/soils/survey/?cid=nrcs142p2_054167
( You don’t have to fill in the types of Sand on the left, just leave them all zeros. )
Put in percent of sand, then percent of clay, then hit “Get Type” button. It automatically calculates the silt. Your Red Dot will display for your soil type in the triangle below. Pretty cool, right?
I was Sandy Loam. For me, this is great in that area because it may stay moist but not hold the water. It drains quickly because of all the sand.
Test yours and see how yours come out! Is it what you expected?