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Soil Testing – an at home test

Here is a soil test you can do at home that will tell you more about the health and structure of your soil.  This test has been routinely posted at the “Soil and Mulch” forum at Gardenweb.com.  It is posted by a very knowledgeable contributor who goes by the user name of “Kimmsr.”  I thank him or her for this information.

Collect a sample of your soil.  It should be damp.  Use that sample to conduct the following experiments.

1) Structure – From that soil sample put enough of the soil in a one quart jar to a level of four inches. Fill that jar with water and put a tight fitting lid on the jar.  Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. Good soil will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. About 1 inch (about 25%) of silt will be on top of that, and about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

2) Tilth – Take a handful of your slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly. When the pressure is released the soil should hold together in that clump, but when poked with a finger that clump should fall apart.

3) Smell – What does your soil smell like? A pleasant, rich earthy odor? Putrid, offensive, repugnant odor? The more organic matter in your soil the more active the soil bacteria will be and the nicer your soil will smell.

4) Drainage – Dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your soil drains too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots of organic matter to speed it up.

5) Life – How many earthworms per shovel full were there?  Five or more indicates a pretty healthy soil.  According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, fewer than five indicates a soil that is not healthy.