If you, like me, are struggling to make plants grow in some areas of your garden, it might be time to look at a rather obvious culprit: the soil. Up to 80% of problems with plants may be attributed to soil conditions, therefore it makes sense to get to know your soil’s texture, pH and ability to hold water.
Fortunately, all these factors can be determined by any gardener at no or very little cost. First to test should be soil texture. If you have a larger garden, take several samples from different parts of the garden, don’t simply assume that it will be the same throughout.
5 simple steps to test soil texture
Testing soil texture is incredibly easy and is done with readily available household items. It takes about two days (but with very little effort by you).
You will need the following for every sample of soil you would like to test:
• a large glass jar with a lid, such as a mason jar.
• A soil sample, dug out from the root zone, in other words not the very top layer of soil.
• a tablespoon of dishwashing detergent.
• Enough water to fill the jar ¾.
• a measuring tape
1. Remove all organic material and rocks from your sample(s) and spread out to dry for a day.
2. Put the soil sample, detergent and water in the jar, close tightly and shake for three minutes. Leave the jar on a level surface. This allows the different particles to settle in a straight line.
3. After 1 minute, measure the height of the sand layer that has formed.
After 2 hours, measure the silt layer.
After 1 day, measure the clay layer on top if it has settled. It might take more than a day to settle
Measure the total height of the soil in the bottle.
4. Calculate the percentage of each layer:
Soil layer/total x 100:
Silt layer/total x 100:
Clay layer/total x 100:
5. Use this soil texture calculator to determine what kind of soil you have.
Perks of knowing your soil texture
Soil texture plays a major role in the way plants will grow in your garden, therefore identifying and understanding the soil type in your garden will give you a huge advantage. You will be able to water and fertilize more efficiently, and help new plants establish easier by adjusting planting time and improving soil texture where necessary. All in all, your garden management will be more efficient, and who could say no to that?
Image: Copyright The Ladybird Garden, Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0