If you’re trying to start out a garden, or are having troubles growing things in your soil, there are lots of things you can do to improve soil that is too sandy, too much clay, to dry, wet, rocky, or otherwise. But what if you don’t know what’s wrong with your soil? Here’s a simple test you can do find out the composition of your soil. This will tell you how much clay, silt, and sand is in your soil, and you can adjust accordingly.
Keep in mind this won’t test for soil pH, but you can pick up a pH tester for that.
Step 1: Get a Soil Sample
Step 2: Add Water
Fill the mason jar with water, leaving some space at the top. Give the jar a good shake, making sure all of the soil is mixed up well, and moistened all the way to the bottom. Leave the jar somewhere still until all of the soil settles.
Step 3: Check Composition
The soil will settle into layers of clay, silt, and sand. The clay will be on the top, silt in the middle, and sand on the bottom. The ideal soil composition is 20% clay, 40% silt, and 40% sand. Once you know what type of soil you have, you can adjust accordingly:
Too Much Clay: Add peat. Peat Moss is not particularly eco-friendly, as it uses up peat bogs, which are non-renewable. But Coconut Fibre is a cheap, renewable alternative that will help aerate your soil and let the water drain better. Garden gypsum is also inexpensive and readily available.
Too Much Silt: This is not a problem, you have great soil. Carry on.
Make sure that anything you add to the soil gets well tilled in, and doesn’t just sit on top.
Loving the city, but longing for the farm, Melissa has made a hobby and a habit out of living sustainably, and DIYing, all while enjoying the perks of living in the big city. From Vancouver BC, she posts about making your own homestead from the smallest condo, and bringing farm living to rapid transit.
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