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

soil testing pura vida conservation reforestation

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

See Guides on Mapping and Identifying Trees,
 and overview of the project at Modern Harvest.

Here's another useful article on soil testing, How to Tell if Your Lawn Needs Lime


  1. Good Post! Understanding and clearing the concepts of soils will help the people a lot with the plantation which is very much important for the people who loves to do the planting.

  2. Great info. Helped Me Alot. Keep Up The Good Work.