|Click for a closer look.|
- 2 cups soil
- 1 quart jar
- 1 tsp liquid detergent
- water to fill
- soil texture triangle chart (below)
|2 cups of garden soil|
First stones, rocks, and debris was removed from the soil.
|Placed in a quart jar with 1 tsp dish detergetn|
To the jar was added 1 teaspoon liquid dish detergent.
|Shaken thoroughly & allowed to sit 24 hours|
I filled the jar with water, capped tightly, and shook to mix it thoroughly. After that it sat undisturbed for 24 hours.
|Measure the distinct soil layers|
(if you can find them)
At that point I was supposed to be able to see three distinct layers, sand on the bottom, silt in the middle, clay on the top. These layers are measured and the percentages for each worked out. The problem was that I couldn't exactly see them. These were supposed to have settled into three distinct layers after 24 hours, but to my dismay, they were very vague.
Looking closely, I could see two layers, the bottom one being sand. That left the top layer to be either clay or silt. There is a lot of clay in our soil, but it is under a 4 or 5 inch layer of this sandy topsoil. I wasn't sure how accurate my texture test would be, but I pressed on just to see what would happen.
I measured the depth of entire sample (2 & 11/16 or 2.69 inches) and then the individual layers. The bottom layer (sand) was 2 & 7/16 or 2.44 inches. The top layer was 4/16 or 0.25 inches. I divided the individual layers by the total sample depth, and then multiplied each by 100. That gave me the percentage of each layer.
Then I took a look at the texture triangle.
|Click for a larger view|
Next I found my percentages on the triangle, and drew a colored line for each.
|Click to enlarge|
If you click to enlarge the above image, you will see that the two lines intersect in "sand." If I had a third line, the intersection of the three would give me my soil texture. If I had misjudged clay for silt, I still would have gotten the same results, since the sand is more than 90%
Online I also found a USDA soil texture by feel flowchart which I decided to try.
|Click to enlarge|
"Does the soil form a ribbon?"
"Does the soil make a weak ribbon less than 2.5 cm long before breaking?"
"Does soil feel very gritty?"
Result - Sandy Loam.
The last thing I found and tried, was the USDA's Web Soil Survey. By entering my location, I was able to pull up data regarding the soil types on our property.
I outlined our property in red. Our garden is in the bottommost angle of the triangle. Here is what the codes tell me:
- CIB2 - Cecil sandy loam
- CeC3 - Cecil clay loam
- PcE3 - Pacolet clay loam
According to Wikipedia, Cecil sandy loam is a brown top soil which extends from Maryland down through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama. It's subsoil is red clay. The presence of mica gives it higher total potassium than most clay soils. It erodes easily and does not recover well from compaction.
As interesting as all this was, I was left with the question, "so what?" What does this information mean to me? One thing the results tell me, is that if my soil is difficult to keep loose, then our permanent garden beds are indeed the way to go. Perhaps a better question would be, "now what?" Actually, the answer to that is the same no matter what kind of soil I have. It needs organic matter. The answer to improving any soil condition is organic matter.