DETERMINING SOIL TEXTURE

There is a simple way to get an estimate of the percentages of sand, silt and clay that are in your base mix. This experiment provides a nice, inexpensive way of checking soils if you can't afford to do a lot of testing. Just follow these steps.

  1. Find a quart mason jar with a lid, like the ones used for canning. Fill it a little more than halfway with the soil you want to test. Fill the rest of the jar with water and attach the lid tightly.

  2. Shake the jar vigorously for a couple of minutes to fully separate and wet the soil. There should be absolutely no lumps of soil left when you are finished agitating it.

  3. When you feel that the soil is fully dispersed in the solution, set the jar down and begin timing. After 45 seconds, mark a line on the side of the jar with a grease pencil where the top of the layer of sand has settled in the jar. Next, put a mark at the top of the next layer after three hours have passed. This is your silt layer. After 24 hours, your clay will have settled out as well.

  4. Measure the total depth of soil in the mason jar. Then measure the thickness of each of the three layers using your marks on the jar.

  5. Calculate the percent of sand, silt and clay in your soil sample with the following procedure:

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Divide the thickness of the sand layer by the total depth of the soil in the jar.

Follow the same instruction for both the silt and clay layers.

Multiply each of the three figures by 100, and you will have the percentages of sand, silt and clay in your sample.

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