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Testing soil with the squeeze test

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One way to test the characteristics of the soil in your garden, yard or field is to use the "squeeze test". It's fun, messy and useful. Best of all, it's easy for gaining a quick indication of your soil type.

Doing the squeeze test[edit]

Choose the area where you want to know the soil type. Take a handful of soil from this area. If it won't come up easily, dig it up.

Squeeze the soil in your hand, attempting to form a ball with the soil. The type of soil will be determined as follows:

  • If the soil forms a sticky ball: This is clay soil. This soil type is fertile but isn't liked by plants that need free-draining soil.
  • If the soil fails to form a ball: This is sandy soil. If you try to shape it, it keeps falling apart into sand-like particles. It is usually light in colour. This soil has low fertility and is in need of amendment to grow many plants successfully.
  • If the soil forms a ball but looks like a crumbling piece of cake when pressure is applied: This is loam or silt soil. It is usually darker in colour due to the high level of organic matter decayed into it. It is a mixture of sand and clay.

Each soil type can be improved as needed, but also be aware that some plants suit the different soil types naturally, so you may wish to work with that reality. Also be aware that soil types can change even within the same garden, yard or field, depending on previous plant growth, earlier attempts at amendment, different levels and so forth. Where this is the case, you will do best to plan the plantings according to soil types and decide where soil amendment efforts are best concentrated.

Soil types gallery[edit]