Know Your Soil

Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze. You may have to moisten it with a bit of water. Rub it between your fingers. How does it feel?

  • Sandy soil has the largest particles and feels gritty. This soil is loose, drains easily, and dries out fast.
  • Clay soil has the smallest particles. It feels smooth like flour and holds together like Silly Putty. When wet, this soil is heavy, sticky, and often soggy. In winter, it can get waterlogged, causing some plants to rot. In summer, it can be hard to dig into. Clay soil holds onto nutrients and water better than sandy soil.
  • Silty or loamy soil is a mix of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter (decomposed plants, compost, or manure). This soil is usually loose, drains well, and holds onto moisture and nutrients.

Alternatively, you can use this simple flow chart to determine what type of soil you have. The flow chart was adapted from Figure 2 in the Sustainable Lawn & Landscape Practices for Communities guidebook.

Soil Type Determination Flow Chart

Designed by Joel Davenport, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant