I've always wanted to get my soil tested but never found the motivation to take a sample to our local extension office because, I might be impatient. Happily though, I found a DIY solution while reading "Teaming with Microbes" by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis, thanks to my daughter's recommendation.
Why is it good to know what your soil is made of?
Soil is the most important component in a successful garden. If you know what your soil consists of you can work on improving it.
Did you know that worms are a great indicator of soil health?
If you have at least 10 worms in a cubic foot, chances are you have beneficial microbes and bacteria that make for healthy soil and strong plants. Good garden soil should consist of 30 to 50% silt, 20 to 30% clay and 5 to 10% organic matter.
To check your soil, this is what you'll need...
1 Quart container (glass jars work great)
1 Tablespoon Calgon water softener
2 C. water
1 Trowel full of dirt
Add all the ingredients to the jar, shake and set aside in a place that won't be disturbed for 24 hours.
After 24 hours...
Sand will immediately start to settle on the bottom, next comes the silt, which will sit on top of the sand. Clay particles will actually stay in suspension for up to a day and organic matter will float. Now you can calculate the percentages of your soil make-up.
(thank the good Lord for calculators)
Divide the depth of each layer by the total depth of all three layers. This is my breakdown:
Total depth: 4"
Sand/silt: 1 1/4" (1.25 divided by 4) = 31.2%
Clay particles: 2 1/2" (2.50 divided by 4) = 62.5%
Organics: 1/4" (.25 divided by 4) = 6.25%
Basically, too much clay and not enough organic matter, story of my life but, knowledge is power!
I need more humus (compost) to fluff up the clay in my soil, so I'll continue to compost using The Wonderful Worm Tower and the DIY Kitchen Scrap Composter. No matter what our soil imperfections are, compost can balance almost any imbalance. Aspiring to loamy, moisture retentive soil is a process, but I like it. I enjoy being part of the cycle.
FYI: I decided to speed up the decay going on in my sunken/drunken kitchen scrap bucket with a big bunch of red wrigglers (worms). They arrive tomorrow (gracias Amazon) and I'll be freshening up their bed with wet, shredded newspaper and ooey, gooey decaying food. I can't wait :)