Soil Texture

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Soil conditions vary; however, there are some standard soil specifications for most vegetable plants. In this post, we will examine the components of soil texture and how to test for soil texture.

Vegetable garden soil should not consist of excessive sand or clay. Excessive sand leaves the soil devoid of nutrients and organic material, causing stunted growth and reduced plant quality. Dense clay limits water, nutrient, and air movement, allowing plants to become susceptible to root diseases and nutrient deficiencies.

The soil should support lose and well-draining qualities. A combination of sand, silt, and clay constitutes most soils. The relative percentage of this combination is the soil texture.

Test the Soil’s Texture:
1. Dig-up 1 cup of soil from 4 – 6 inches below the surface of your garden from 3 – 4 different areas.

2. Remove any debris and break up clumps. Add the soil to a jar. Fill no more than half of the jar or less than 2 inches with soil.

3. Add 1 Tbsp of dish detergent to the jar (detergent will extract the soil particles into layers). Fill the jar ¾ full of water. Put on a tight-fitting lid and shake the jar until well mixed with no soil adhering on the bottom.

4. Set the jar on a level surface to allow settling over several days. The soil will separate to sand, silt, and clay, in that order from the bottom up. The layers will vary in color, allowing you to see how the percentages accumulate.

The bottom layer tells you how sandy the soil. Next is the silt, and the clay is the top layer.

• 80 – 100% sand particles, the soil is considered sandy.
• 50% or more clay particles, the soil is considered clay.
• Roughly equal parts clay, sand, and silt, the ground is deemed to be loamy. Loamy soil is an ideal texture because it allows the soil to drain and retain water long enough for plants to absorb it.

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Image by: Richard Wheeler

Writer: Tom Myrick

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