Soil Tests

Understanding soil conditions is key to planning a reforestation project, knowing which plants will grow and which amendments may be needed.  The following 5 tests use simple, universal methods.   Data from these tests can be entered in this Google Form.
  1. pH - With soil samples mixed with water, add vinegar or baking soda.  Mixture will fizz from vinegar if alkaline, or from baking soda if acidic, or neither if neutral.
  2. Compaction - insert a metal hanger into ground and measure the depth it can penetrate.
  3. Permeability - Insert a pipe firmly into ground, fill with water and measure the rate it descends.  <or> Dig a hole 12" (30cm) deep and 6" to 12" wide with flat sides, fill with water and measure the rate it descends.
  4. Composition - with a clear jar, fill half with soil and half with water, leaving one inch (2.5cm) of air.  Cap, shake and let sit over night.  Measure the separated layers of clay, silt and sand.
  5. Horizons - Excavate a soil profile to view soil horizons.  Record each horizons depth, color, texture and composition.

Data Form
Project Name: _______________________________
GPS location: ____________, _____________
Date: ____ ____ _____

1. Soil pH: (acidic/neutral/alkaline)

2. Compaction:  ________ in/cm depth

3. Permeability: ___________ in/cm per hour
      -depth of hole/pipe:  _____ in/cm
      -soil moisture prior to test:  (dry, damp, saturated)

4. Composition: ____% clay, ____% silt, ____% sand

                            depth                          color                   texture              % clay   % silt   % sand
5. Horizons: O. ____to____ in/cm      __________      ___________      ______   _____   ______
                     A. ____to____ in/cm      __________      ___________      ______   _____   ______
                     B. ____to____ in/cm      __________      ___________      ______   _____   ______
                     C. ____to____ in/cm      __________      ___________      ______   _____   ______
                     R. ____to____ in/cm      __________      ___________      ______   _____   ______

Enter Data in Google Forms

1. Do it yourself pH Test, The Spruce
3. DIY Soil Drainage Test for your Yard, Today's Homeowner
4. Mason Jar Soil Test, Preparedness Mama
5. How to Identify Soil Horizons, NRCS

Assisted Natural Reforestation: Mapping

with Google My Maps

-Visit, sign in or create Google account, and “create new map.”
-Open your My Map on mobile device, walk project site

Assisted Natural Reforestation at Modern Harvest, SC

These fields were pasture 10 years ago; since then regeneration has been occurring naturally.  Wind, wildlife and bordering mature trees all deliver seed to the site.  The fields are in late meadow to early forest stages of succession, with:
  • pioneer trees (sweetgum, sumac, pear, persimmon, pine), 
  • vines (greenbriar, honeysuckle, poison ivy, muscodine grape, passionfruit), 
  • forbes (goldenrod, dog fennel, dandelion, wingstem, pokeweed) and grasses,
  • blackberry. 
  • Also, trees of timber/produce value (pecan, cedar, walnut and oak) slowly establishing in sheltered areas.  

Pine Barrens Conservation, The "Ecological Forest"

The site was a cornfield until 1997.  That winter the corn stalks were plowed under and pine saplings planted.  Today the pines tower 40ft above, prescribed burns keep them safe and healthy, and thinning opens the understory for habitat.  "You can do a lot in 20 years," proclaims Bob Williams, President of Pine Creek Forestry and manager of the project.  In the coming years he'll continue burning and thinning, opening space for biodiversity while occasionally providing "high-quality but limited" timber to the landowner.  Rather than be clearcut, it will remain a biodiverse, ecological forest.

Bernie Isaacson (NJ DEP) and Bob Williams

Atlantic White Cedar - A Case for Conservation

“The main point," forester Bob Williams concludes, "is conservation vs. preservation.”  After hours of touring his cedar swamps it was clear: these endangered ecosystems can be successfully restored through informed human intervention – conservation.  The opposing environmental school of thought, preservation, opposes intervention.  It's a "public-social problem," Bob says of the latter mindset that saps support for his restoration projects.  And considering the ecology of cedar swamps, preservation alone would also seal their doom.