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This content is taken from the Lancaster University's online course, Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds Place approximately a teaspoon of soil in your hand. Break it up and remove any stones. Add a small amounts of water to make it moist. The soil should feel like putty, not wet and sloppy, but not too dry to hold together. Squeeze the soil into a ball. Does it stay in a ball? If it doesn’t, then you have sand. Rub the ball with your thumbnail and note whether it shines. Flatten the ball to form a ribbon about two millimetres thick. If the soil does not form a ribbon, you have a loamy sand.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds How long before the ribbon breaks? Note this down. Get a small amount of soil really wet and rub it between your fingers. Does it feel gritty or smooth? If your ribbon is less than 5 centimetres long and you didn’t notice any shine, then there are three options. If it’s gritty, you have a sandy loam. If it’s smooth, you have silty loam. And if it’s a bit of both, then you have a loam. If your ribbon extends to between 5 and 8 centimetres long and has a slight shine and it’s gritty, then it’s a sandy clay loam. If it’s smooth, it’s a silty clay loam. And if it’s a bit of both, it’s a clay loam.

Skip to 1 minute and 33 seconds If your ribbon reaches more than 8 centimetres and shines when rubbed, then it’s a type of clay. If it feels gritty, it’s a sandy clay. If it feels smooth, it’s a silty clay. And if it’s a bit of both, then it’s a clay.

Practical activity - testing soil texture

Now it’s your turn to get your hands dirty!

Watch this short video, which shows you how to test the texture of the soil in your area. If you are able to try this out, have a go and post your results for others to see.

If you need to refer to written instructions, you can use the transcript in the downloads section below. You can also find a useful key below, which will help you follow the process.

Please check our safety tips in the download section below.

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This video is from the free online course:

Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet

Lancaster University

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