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You are here: Home > Sprinkler School™ > Sprinkler System Basics > Sprinkler System Design and Installation > How To Determine Your Soil Type
How To Determine Your Soil Type

How To Determine Your Soil Type

Sprinkler System And Irrigation Basics

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Hands Holding Plant in Soil

You can tell if your lawn is healthy by the soil you have. Even the most beautifully designed yard can have a lawn that is in poor health. A lawn doesn't necessarily have to exhibit bare spots, dry patches, or discoloration to be a lawn in distress.

Be warned:
If you let your lawn become too unhealthy you might have to start over.

Know your Soil

Knowing what soil consists of is the first step to understanding your lawn. Soil has a big impact on whether your grass grows into a healthy lawn. Soil is made up of particles, water, and air. The particles are from the weathering of what ever rocks are found in your area. This is where sand, loam, and clay become a factor. The type of lawn soil that most people lean toward is a loam soil. Loam soil consists of basically equal amounts of sand, clay, and organic material. This soil is perfect for absorbing those all important nutrients and moisture. Clay is probably one of the hardest soils to overcome. Maintaining a clay based soil can be difficult because it often dries out and hardens, making it almost impossible for the grass roots to push through.

Soil Structure and Texture

Soil Watering Types

The best soil structure is a granular soil that contains a variety of pores (Loam). This soil has the best ability to absorb moisture, allow for proper drainage, and transport air. All of these factors are in place as a result of the aggregates being the perfect size.

Now what’s a homeowner’s biggest fear? Compacted soil is considered the big monster. It can be deadly to your lawn because compacted soil prohibits root growth, struggles to absorb moisture, and doesn’t allow air in.

There is a simple way to determine what type of soil - sand, loam or clay - you have in your yard. All it takes is a clean, empty jar with a lid, some clean water, a tablespoon of detergent and a sample of the soil you want to test. To do so:

  1. Fill the jar about 1/3 full with the soil to be tested.
  2. Fill the jar with water and detergent then cap it.
  3. Shake the jar vigourously and set aside for several hours or overnight.

EVALUATE THE RESULTS:


Example of soil predominantly sand

SAND

If the water is clear and the soil has settled to the bottom; you have predominantly sand soil.

Example of soil predominatly loam

LOAM

If the water is still a little murky with bits of matter suspended in it; you have loam soil.

Example of soil predominantly clay

CLAY

If the water is still murky and there is a visible ring of sediment around the jar; then your soil is mostly clay.

Use a Lawn Aerator to improve soil drainage and reduce thatch.


Lawn Aerator

If you determine you are indeed a lucky homeowner with the challenge of a compacted yard, you might opt to have your lawn aerated. This can be accomplished with a variety of tools, from a manual aerator all the way up to one the size of a lawn mower. This process allows oxygen to reach your roots again, enables fertilizer and other nutrients access to grass roots, and finally and most importantly, it allows water to reach your roots. This aides in the overall growth and health of your lawn.

How to Test Soil for Nutrients


Typically, you send your test results to a Cooperative Extension Service. You can also elect to purchase a DIY lawn kit. Although home test kits don't tell you what you need to add, this might be a way to keep an eye on your lawn after receiving the results from a professional test. 

A soil test is a very helpful tool as you work to keep your lawnhealthy since it provides you with your pH and nutrient levels. In order to obtain accurate results, make sure to dig down far enough, typically between 8 and 12 inches, before obtaining your sample. You will want to dig in several different areas and obtain a sample from each. Generally, the test results will tell you exactly if you have a deficiency and what you need to add in order to achieve a balanced lawn.

Diagram of Soil Types

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