How To Measure Your Clay Soil Content

As always, this is a test built for the extremely low-budget gardener. It isn’t hard, it’s not rocket-science but it will give you a basic understanding of the extent of your clay soil issue.

  • Go to your garden. Dig a small hole about 8-12 inches deep. From the edge of that hole, take a “slice” of soil. (put your shovel on the side of the hole and push straight down to slice off a bit).
  • Put that soil into a dry bucket. Mix it up thoroughly (if it’s wet and clay it might not want to mix very well but do what you can with it) We want to ensure the top inch or two is mixed with the bottom layers.
  • Take a large glass jar (you need to be able to see through it) such as a coffee container.
  • Fill the glass jar about half-way with mixed up soil.
  • Fill the rest of the jar with water.
  • Put on the top. I can’t emphasize this enough. Put on the jar lid.
  • Shake thoroughly. 🙂 All the soil should be in suspension and mixed up floating in the water when you’re finished this step.

Put the jar on a windowsill where you can easily reach it but out of the way because you’re not going to be moving it for a while.
After a few minutes, you’ll start to see some layers forming on the bottom of the jar. These are the heavy particles (sand)
After a longer time, you’ll see another layer forming on top of this – the line between the two is usually visible. That’s the silt component of your soil.
And after a much longer time – the water will never really return to crystal clear, the clay particles will settle down forming a third distinct layer in your soil.
You can eyeball it or use a ruler (the ruler is the scientific part of this test) 🙂 to judge what proportion of sand: silt: clay you have in your soil and that tells you what kind of soil you have.
Drop me a note below and tell me what proportion of clay you have in your soil. It will help me decide what kinds of articles we need to post here to help the most (I already have a sense of some of them) 🙂
You may be interested in knowing about some trees and shrubs for clay or even some perennials for clay soil.

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One thought on “How To Measure Your Clay Soil Content”

  1. I live in Zone 8A, (North Central Texas with the black gumbo soil) and in a heavily woodland urban area bordering 22 miles of green space with LOTS of organic material.
    My results are as follows: (I let this settle down for a while, maybe a few weeks).
    Clay; 38%
    4th layer of whitish material (no clue what this is): 11%
    Silt: 20%
    Sand: 16%
    There is a bit of give and take b/c it did not settle in an exact linear fashion, but more of a slight wavy manner.

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