Four super easy garden soil tests

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Snippet: Testing the pH of your soil without a kit. Can you do your own soil test? How do I get a free floor test? Why are soil tests carried out? What are the benefits of soil testing? Test and improve your soil.

Successful gardening depends on the right soil. When plants struggle in the yard, the first step to better plants begins with a simple soil test. Find out the texture, composition, drainage, alkalinity and minerals of the soil and success will rise to your dream garden! Here are four simple, free do-’em-at-home tests.

Worm test

Worms are important indicators of the general health of the garden soil, especially in terms of biological activity.

If you have earthworms, you probably also have all of the beneficial microbes and bacteria that make for healthy soil and vigorous plants. To do the worm test:

# 1 At 55 degrees, worms become active in the soil;; Make sure the soil is damp but not soaking wet.
# 2 Dig a hole with one foot cross a foot deep and lay the floor on a tarp or piece of cardboard.
# 3 Count your earthworms while sifting the earth back into the garden hole.

If you can find at least ten worms, your soil is in good shape. Less than that suggests you have a problem with a lack of organic matter to support healthy earthworms, or that your soil is just too alkaline.

Percolation test

Drainage is the main problem in mountain soils. Most of our evergreen and xerian plants die if the garden is left too wet. Even culinary herbs stop producing if their roots stay moist. To test the drainage of your soil:

# 1 Dig a hole with one foot cross a foot deep and lay the excavated soil on a tarpaulin or a piece of cardboard.
# 2 Fill in the hole with water and let it drain completely.
# 3 Fill in the hole a second time with water.
# 4 Track how long It takes time for the water to drain.

If it takes longer than four hours to drain the water, then drainage problems will arise that need to be addressed.

Crush test

One of the most basic properties of soil is its composition. Soils are classified as either clay, sand, or loam. Clay is nutritious but drains slowly. Sand runs off quickly, but has problems storing nutrients and moisture. Loam is considered an ideal soil due to its ability to retain moisture and nutrients.

To determine the type of soil, take a handful of damp soil from your garden, pinch it firmly, and open your hand. One of three things will happen:

# 1 shape is held and crumbles If you get a light bump, you have abundant clay. Perfect!
# 2 Shape is held and stubbornly sits in hand after a light push = you have clay soil. Not so good.
# 3 Your bottom is falling apart as soon as you open your hand; They have sandy soil. Not good at all.

Now that you know what type of soil you have for gardening and you can take steps to improve it.

The pH test

The pH of your soil measures how alkaline or acidic your garden soil is and how happily plants are growing. Most plants grow best in soils with a neutral pH between 6 and 7. Plants that grow in soil pH above 7.5 will turn yellow, lose the floral scent, or stop blooming together. The soil needs to be corrected.

We have pH test kits here at Watters Garden Center that are very easy to find online. Once you know that the pH of your soil is a problem, you can start adjusting the pH for optimal growing conditions.

If you find that you’ve done these tests, fertilized and modified your soil as needed, and your garden is still struggling, it’s time to seek the help of a professional garden center.

Watters 58th Spring Open House – consider this a personal invitation🙂
March 13-15
For this year’s event we have stocked up with fruit and shade trees, flowering shrubs and flowers. We also bring our breeders off the farm to share their knowledge with local gardeners. Our 2020 gardens are ready to begin and this weekend we’re celebrating that seasonal return to one of our favorite pastimes!

Until next week I’ll be helping friends with garden floors here at the Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott during the week or can be contacted through his website at or

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