Sustainable Landscaping Blue Mountains City Council
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A simple test for determining soil texture

A simple test to identify soil texture is to take a handful of soil from the site and add just enough water to mould it into a ball. Test soil from various points on the site and from different depths in the profile. Broadly speaking, the texture test will determine whether your soil is predominately sand, loam or clay.

Sandy soils crumble and will not easily form a ball. They range in colour from almost black, to grayish- brown, yellow to red to almost white. They usually have little or no smell. Water drains away rapidly and they are low in plant nutrients.

Loam soils will form a ball that is friable, are often dark in colour due to the amount of organic matter they contain, and typically have a pleasantly 'earthy' smell. These soils are generally moderately well drained, and are capable of holding and supplying a good level of plant nutrients. This soil texture can provide ideal growing conditions for the majority of plants.

Clay soils are easily moulded into a ball, and range in colour from bluish-white to red or dark brown. In saturated conditions, these soils often develop a "sour" smell. Clay has fine, dense particles that may produce poor water infiltration and drainage. They may remain wet for considerable periods following extended rainfall, and are easily compacted. Although they are often more fertile than sandy soils, growing conditions for most plants is difficult, particularly if additional drainage is not provided.



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