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Soil Structure Test - need some help with analysis please

essex, England Eng

after the very good advice i have recieved from a few of you, on my recent blog about 'freaky soil' - thank you all for the advice. yesterday i did as both Grenville and Lori have advised and done a soil structure test, we already know that my soil is very acidic after i did a ph test a couple of weeks ago. i am now looking at the structure...i would say on first glance this looks quite good - hope the picture is clear enought to see well.. i can see 4 layers here, possibly 5 as the sand seems to be very gritty on the bottom and finer towards the top of this layer, but overall it looks to me like i have at least 45% maybe as much as 50 sand, - it is difficult to be accuate on this as the jar tappers down at the bottom - next time i will use a straight one- but we live and learn lol.

next their seems to be a thinish layer would say approx 20-25% of a grey/brown stuff. Next a slightly thicker layer approx 25-30% of what i would say looks like clay. then a thin layer approx 10% of a very light colour stuff that swirls about a bit if i move the jar - could this be play sand? it is much finer than normal sand. and yes i have approx 5% of OM floating on the top. so does this look like a good structure?




Hi Angie,
If you look into the history of when your house was built, the builders will have taken out the footings, they take away the top soil to make up the garden of the house that has just been built.
The sub soil is dug out and can be mixed with the top soil of your garden.
In the course of building many materials are spread around your building, when some gardens are finished the soil put back may not be local.
From what you say you have made up with ericaceous compost
You will need to take PH samples from all around the garden to get a true reading.

9 Jan, 2009


thanks Dr.B. all i know the house is pre-war, my neighbour tells me that this area was heavly hit during the blitz - London/Essex border. also i found the remains of what i think is an air-rade shelter in what is now my woodland bed, it's quite far down so not a problem leaving it there. But when digging up this garden i have found all sorts, mainly house hold stuff and glass, bricks etc, what you would expect really. i am going to do some more tests from all round the garden, but i do have acid lovers growing all over the place so i suspect that it is quite acidic every where, but i will definately check it out properly in the next few days.

9 Jan, 2009


Cool I should try this although i know from digging pretty much what it is like where the clay is and where has had organic matter spread, dug in.

I shall give it a go when I can dig in the soil.

9 Jan, 2009


Go for it Trees, i have found all of this really interesting, after all knowing our soil will only make us better gardeners.

9 Jan, 2009


Sounds to me like you've nailed it down, Majeeka. the fine layer that stays suspended in the water for a long time is silt...verrrry fine clay particles. If it dries it is powdery not for that reason I would say you have a sandy loam which is great! Having clay as the subsoil or even as your topsoil is no hardship at is very fertile but it's structure is difficult for plant roots to deal with, you need to add a few more ingredients to the sand well tilled in with OM.....Since clay does not drain well and is very heavy, without careful tilling it can be a disaster. I was wondering if part of your soil's clay component could be pulverised brick... If your old air raid shelter is three feet down you've had plenty of fill placed or graded over...having said that though...the best soil isn't purely is a mixture of mineral and organic.
Minerals vary in form from silty powder to stones and grit...the organic materials are in a state of decay involving the action of water, air and micro fauna and larger insects and arthropods. The soil is a living thing too!

10 Jan, 2009


thanks Lori, and yes i gues it a living thing, had never really thought about it like that. i will add some more sand, Brookes dad runs a sand quarry so i am sure he will bring some for me on his next visit, i am always adding OM any way, old compost from pots, compost from my composter, and part composted bark as a mulch.

10 Jan, 2009


In simlpe terms, soil is rotted vegetation and rotted rock.
When the air raid shelter was dug out the top soil will again have been mixed up even on a new housing estate.
On open fields the ground has been used before.
It's great to see you are going from just gardening into rural science.
Do keep records of all you do in an every day diary.
Good preparation always gives the best results in the end.

10 Jan, 2009


Thanks Dr.B. i have really enjoyed this project, and i have some more samples i want to take, it does make sense to learn what you can, i must admit i have never bothered before, but then the soil i have had before as been quite obvious what it is and what i can grow, not to mention the last garden i had was tiny, had a large patio area, and a balcony, so most of the more difficult plants i grew in pots anyway, and you can choose what to plant them in can't you. but all of this will only improve the way in which i garden, you are learning all the time, it's great i love it!

10 Jan, 2009

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