How to Assess your Garden Soil

Before we improve our garden soil & before we can grow any fruit, vegetables, trees or shrubs we must first assess the soil's condition. Once we know our soil's condition, we can determine what will grow best on our site. We can also determine how to improve it.

Before assessing soil, it is important to note that all a soil really is is a medium which hold roots, air, water & nutrients. Therefore we need a soil that is most suited to doing the above functions.

A basic soil assesment would involve the following

Assess soil depth

The soil's depth is the first thing that should be assessed before starting any gardening project. If your topsoil is too shallow, you will need to import more soil which could turn out to be quite expensive

  • For growing vegetables you need a soil depth of at least 1 ½ ft     
  • For lawns you need a soil depth of at least 6 inches
  • While trees would require at least  2ft of top soil

Assess soil colour

The colour of your soil can tell you a lot about it

  • Darker soils - Generally higher in fertility, poorer draining, higher in organic matter, wetter soils
  • Lighter soils Colour  - Generally lower in fertility, free draining, low in organic matter, drier soils                              

Assess soil fertility

There are a number of ways in which this can be done
A very simple test would involve viewing your garden & noting the weeds that grow there. If the following weeds are present in your garden then it is likely that your soil is highy fertile

  • Nettles
  • Docks
  • Thistles
  • Cleavers

Assess your soil type

This is known as the texture test
A process where you rub a sample of soil between your finger & thumb to determie its texture

  • Gritty to feel - Sandy soil
  • Smooth to feel - Clay soil

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