At Sunday, every lawn plan starts with a soil test. But you can still learn a lot about your soil with your own two hands. We’re sharing some fun, hands-on ways to get to know your soil better with help from the Soil Science Society of America. For the kids (or kids at heart) there is a sweet art project too.
Materials: bags or containers for holding soil, magnifying glass (optional)
Collect soil samples from different parts of your yard or neighborhood. You only need about ½ a cup. The greater variety of samples the better.
Texture tells us a lot about soil. Using your senses, explore your samples and compare the look and feel of each. Use the chart below to help determine the texture of your soils.
Large sand particles have great drainage. Fine silt has some nutrients and holds moisture. Extra fine clay is rich in nutrients, but doesn’t drain well.. It takes a mix!
Learn more about soil types through other hands-on activities.
Materials: Dry soil, tool to crush soil, containers to hold soil
Allow your soils to dry out overnight. Once completely dry, crush and grind into fine particles and put each into a container.
Look closely at each sample for hints of colors. Use the notes below to learn which minerals and conditions contribute to each color. Minerals are important in supporting plant life. You can learn more about what else is in your soil in our Decoding Your Soil Test blog post.
Dig deeper into the minerals in your soil with this presentation on Soil Colors .
Materials: dry soil samples, glue, water, paint brushes, paper (watercolor paper works well), pencils or markers
To make soil paints, mix each cup of your finely ground soil particles with glue and water until you get a consistency that resembles paint. Let the painting begin! Use pencils or markers to add some finishing touches once the paints dry.
Pro tip: You can use plants like leaves or flowers to add natural colors to your painting just by rubbing them onto the paper.
For more inspiration, watch a video of soil scientists from Cornell University painting a scene from their campus using different types of soil.
More in-depth instructions for soil painting available here.