The article on soils gives in-depth information on soil properties and soils best suited for the fruit garden. Here is a quick, handy, in the field “dirty thumbs” test to make an estimation of your soil texture.
Take a walnut size scoop (a rough tablespoon) of soil.
Mix with just enough water to hold together without leaving soil in your hand as you roll it around. The consistency of modeling clay is what you are aiming for.
Press the soil ball between your thumb and forefinger to make a “ribbon” of soil. Do this several times to see how well the ribbon holds together. One of three broad characteristics of ribbon will result:
- a smooth cohesive ribbon with little cracking along the edges
- a semi-cohesive ribbon with large deep cracks along the edge that eventually breaks apart
- a non-cohesive ribbon that breaks apart almost immediately or does not form at all
The first ribbon will typically be two inches or longer, especially if it is somewhat sticky feeling, indicates a high clay content soil.
The second ribbon, which will typically hold together for an inch or two, is indicative of a loamy soil; whether sandy loam or clay loam will depend somewhat on how gritty or not the ribbon is. More grit, more sand.
The non-cohesive ribbon, normally less than an inch in length, indicates a very high sand content to the soil. It will be well drained, but with little moisture holding capacity.
©2013. Adapted from the Backyard Berry Book: A hands-on guide to growing berries, brambles, and vine fruit in the home garden by Stella Otto.