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Garden Talk: Cool Soil Tests

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Pete2
Richmond Hill, GA
(Zone 8b)

February 8, 2001
2:51 PM

Post #1215

I was going through my "files" of gardening material that I'd saved and ran across something that I thought was pretty interesting. Some different soil tests (not your normal soil tests) that can be performed on your soil to yield some valuable information.

The Ribbon Test
Take a handful of moist soil and sqeeze it into the size of a ping pong ball. Next, squeeze it in your hand to make a ribbon. Hold the ribbon up in the air. If you can't even make a ribbon, then your soil is at least 50% sand and has very lttle clay. If your ribbon is less than 2 inches long before it breaks, then your soil has about 25% clay in it. If your ribbon is 2 - 3 1/2 inches long, you have about 45% clay. If your ribbon is >3 1/2 inches long and doesn't break when you hold it up in the air, you've got about 50% clay in your soil.

The Jar Test
Put 1 inch of crushed up, dry soil in a quart jar. Fill the jar with 2/3 water. Add 1 teaspoon of table salt. Shake the jar and let the contents settle. Sand settles to the bottom in about a minute. Measure the depth of that layer. Silt settles in about 4 - 5 hours. (You can see a color and size difference in the particles.) Clay takes days to settle. Some particles may remain suspended. Take that into consideration. By measuring, you can determine the makeup of your soil in percentages.

The pH Test
Here's a quick way to check to see if your soil is severly alkaline. Take 1 tablespoon of dried garden soil and add a few drops of vinegar to it. If it fizzes, then the pH is above 7.5. (the free carbonates in the soil react with the acid at a pH of 7.5 and above.)
Here's a quick way to check to see if your soil is severely acid. Take 1 tablespoon of wet garden soil and add a pinch of baking soda to it. If the soil fizzes, the soil is probably very acidic (< 5.0). Of course, a soil sample submitted to your county extension office is the most reliable way to determine the exact pH.

Pete2
justmeLisa
Brewers, KY
(Zone 6b)

February 9, 2001
2:10 AM

Post #51206

Neat info Pete!! Thanks, lisa
dave

February 9, 2001
2:29 AM

Post #51211

Yeah, thanks Pete! I'm going to try these myself.
notmartha
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 9, 2001
12:32 PM

Post #51253

wow-thats really kewl-thankz pete
Grits
Pineville, LA
(Zone 8b)

February 9, 2001
12:57 PM

Post #51257

Thanks Pete - going to give it a try. We have the blue-gumbo clay here. Talk about amending!

Is there a test for soil temperature other than a thermometer?

Grits
Pete2
Richmond Hill, GA
(Zone 8b)

February 9, 2001
5:35 PM

Post #51302

Your welcome.:) Sorry Grits, I don't have a test for soil temperature but I do have a rather unconventional test for F temperature. By counting the chirps of the tree cricket (Oecanthus fultoni), which live in shrubs a few feet from the ground, you can gauge temperature. Their chirps speed up as the temperature gets warmer and slow down as it gets cooler.

Count the number of chirps in 15 seconds and add 40. This will give you the temperature (Fahrenheit) of the cricket’s location. Funny test huh? LOL

Pete2

gardendragon
Ladysmith, BC
(Zone 8a)

February 9, 2001
9:13 PM

Post #51330

Thanks Pete2, anymore garden gems?
Grits
Pineville, LA
(Zone 8b)

February 9, 2001
9:52 PM

Post #51333

I love it Pete! Have to try counting chirps.
Thanks
Grits
Pete2
Richmond Hill, GA
(Zone 8b)

February 10, 2001
1:35 PM

Post #51423

LOL. That's about it for now. I'm reorganizing my files today since it's raining outside. If I come across anymore, I'll post them. :)

Pete2
Ivey
Lyles, TN

February 10, 2001
10:20 PM

Post #51501

Pete: don't forget all that stuff that's floating in your quart jar soil test, it's your organic matter and you should have a lot in good garden dirt.
Pete2
Richmond Hill, GA
(Zone 8b)

February 11, 2001
2:46 AM

Post #51540

How did your test come out, Ivey? Have you had a chance to do it yet?

Pete2
Ivey
Lyles, TN

February 11, 2001
4:40 AM

Post #51561

Pete2: It's a good test, tho I don't use it only because if it's in my garden beds, I know what it is 'cause I put it there!LOL Seriously, that same method will separate clay from everything else to make your own terra cotta pots and things.

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