BEFORE you move the jar, hold a ruler against the side of your jar and measure the total depth of your solids. Write it down.
Now for the fun stuff, shake your jar for five full minutes, set it down and let settle for 40 seconds then measure the soil that has settled. This is the amount of sand in the sample. Write down the measurement.
To find the percentage of sand divide the total sand depth by the total soil depth, then multiply by 100.
My total sand depth was 0.9", my total sample depth was 1.75" therefore;
0.90 divided by 1.75 = 0.51. multiply by 100 and sand makes up 51% of my sample. Write down the number. Complete this for silt and clay. You will then have the percentages for all 3 components.It is time to consult the Soil texture triangle.
A good rule of thumb is a 40:30:40 ratio of sand silt and clay. So while my plotted graph puts me in the loam category on the graph, I need more clay. Referring back to yesterday and the action that each mineral component plays in the soil, clay is vital to healthy plants. It is the clay that facilitates the transfer of water and nutrient to the plant roots. So we will add clay from another part of the farm to this area. By the way, the sample shown came from the newly tilled area next to the driveway that is serving as this year's veggie plot. We have planted some gooseberries and have moved my sweet cherry to this bed in a last ditch effort to save it.
So overall, this soil is better than I anticipated. The silt and sand have
allowed the worm population to exist. Not flourish, but it is there There is
almost no organic matter in this soil. Hopefully your samples have lots of good
organic matter floating on top. We have added clay and composted manure to
the plantings. I will keep you updated on the progress of this garden.
Now obviously this test is not going to tell you everything you need to know about your soil. This test is useful in determining the structure of your soil. To test the pH of your soil you can purchase those small little kids that are available
at every garden center, the old trick of adding a pinch of baking soda to a
small quantity of wet soil will only work if you soil is very acidic. It is much
more informative to take the kit test. If you are concerned about the chemical
composition of your soil you can take for a sample and send it away to
Department of Agriculture for testing, however if your soil structure is good
either naturally or via amendments you make to it, the plants you have will tell
you what you need to know about your trace minerals and the chemical make up of your soil.
I will be writing another post about soil chemistry, trace minerals and changing them early in the fall. These are much easier to alter than structure and best done in the fall. If you are still shopping for your new homestead, remember to take some zip bags with you when you view the property, take some samples from different locations, label them, and test the soil structure. It helps to know everything going in! Have a great evening.