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How to check your soil type
18th May 2021

How to check your soil type

The first thing to do when checking what kind of soil you have in your garden is to learn about the three main types of soil. Once you understand the different characteristics of soil, you can try one of the soil checking methods below.

First let’s go through the three main soil types.

 

Clay Soil

Clay soil is the most nutrient-rich of the three soil types and will retain moisture better than the others too. The individual particles of clay are very small, so there is less space for water to drain out efficiently and it takes longer for the particles to warm up during warmer weather.


Sand Soil

Sandy soil has large particle sizes with a lot of space around them which allows water to drain the most efficiently out of the three main soil types. Sand soil also warms up quickly in warm weather which makes it ideal for planting in the springtime. Sand soil is good for early planting but will require plenty of watering, especially when the summers sets in.

 

Silt Soil

Silt soil has properties in between the two extremes of clay and sand soil. It has medium-sized particles to hold plenty of water while still allowing it to drain efficiently, though not as efficiently as sand soil. It also contains plenty of nutrients, though not as much as clay soil.

 

Quick Soil Checking Methods

There are a couple of quick methods for determining whether your topsoil is more clay or sand. The easiest test is to take a handful of damp soil and squeeze it in your hand. The grittier it feels, the sandier it is. If it feels slick then it will have more clay than sand.

You can also roll a thin sausage out of a clump of damp soil in your hand and then hold it up from one end. If it stays comfortably in tact then your soil is mostly clay. If it crumbles and doesn’t form into a sausage then it is mostly sand. If it forms a nice sausage but then breaks into two or three pieces when held vertically from one end, then it will be a fairly even mix of sand and clay.

 

Checking Soil with the Jar Test

A more accurate method to check for all three types of soil is the jar test. Take several samples of soil from around your garden and mix them together before drying it out. Then fill a jar about a third full with the dry soil and add enough water so the jar is about two-thirds full. Now add either a generous pinch of salt or some liquid dish detergent to separate the soil elements and give the whole thing a good shake.

The sand elements of the soil will settle within a few minutes, the silt elements within a few hours, and the clay elements within a few days. Once you have three settled and visibly distinct layers, you can then measure the total amount of soil in the jar and calculate how much of each layer or type of soil there is.

 

If you need a ton of topsoil, garden mulch or just want to know how much is topsoil or garden mulch costing these days, then contact Springbridge via our website or call today on 0845 370 1921 for more information.