Project/Soil test plan

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Project steward

Shannon Cowan


An ongoing soil testing plan for EcoReality.


This project is an organized way of collecting soil samples and measuring general macronutrient needs in soil, pH and balance of silt, sand and clay. First level: Test holes to about 90 cm were dug in N field and NE lawn. It also serves as a means to count earthworms, look visibly at the topsoil layer. Completed September 27th 2008. Second level: Test of pH and macronutrients using test kit from Foxglove garden supply store. Conducted in main garden area May 2009.

Goal or deliverable

First level:

  1. 4 test holes in the N field will be dug. One in dry highest point SW corner of this field. One in center just below ridge, in richer soil. One in SE corner near Meg's hedge. One in NE center-corner in richest bottom soil.
  2. 3 test holes in the NE lawn will be dug.
  3. Fractional analyses, or shake tests will be done with each soil sample from each of the seven sampling locations.

Second level:

  1. Three different random samples within main garden raised beds will be tested for macronutrients and pH levels.
  2. If low, appropriate fertilization using manure/compost and/or 'complete organic fertilizer which includes bone and/or bloodmeals, will be undertaken. For pH liming may be undertaken.
  3. Technique should allow for modification of zones rather than entire garden soils, as necessary, and avoid over application of fertilizer in the way of composted cow manure (or other).
  4. May also be useful to inform the process of composting on-farm materials in future, to amend poorer regions of main garden area.
  5. Same test can be conducted in garlic field after garlic is harvested for 2009.

Timeline, schedule, or end date

Level two underway, to be completed by end of May 2009


level one

  1. Walk the two fields. Dig 90 cm squarish holes. Measure horizons - each layer that looks like a layer.
  2. As soil is coming off spade, have a partner place it onto newspaper and count the earthworms.
  3. Obtain soil samples (500 ml) from each layer at each location and label with a numbering system. Keep written record.
  4. Put each soil sample into a quart Mason jar or similar with tight fitting lid. Remove roots, rocks. Break up as finely as possible. Mark with a felt pen directly on glass/masking tape where soil line reaches. Fill jar with water to within 2.5 cm of the top and add 5ml low sudsing detergent.
  5. Seal the jar and shake it hard. Really shake. More shaking. 5 to 10 minutes. Shake until each particle has separated from the others. Immediately put jar in bright light on level surface. Look closely to see into murky water.
  6. Mark sand fraction that has settled on bottom.
  7. Go away. Return every 2 hours from time of stopping shaking. Take a look and make a mark each time with fractions that have added. Within two minutes to 2 hours after shaking is the silt fraction. All that remains is clay. Clay can take 12 hours to settle out. If it settles within that time, it is coarse clay, a good type. If it takes longer, your soil has finer clay which makes it harder to work.
  8. calculate percentage sand, silt, clay in each 500 ml sample. Divide height of dry soil in jar before water was added by the height of settled layer in question.

level two

  1. Follow directions on soil test kit. Sample three locations main garden.

Financial budget


Labor budget

level one

  • Shannon Cowan spent about 4 hours digging holes, obtaining and cleaning equipment and measuring results.

level two

  • Shannon Cowan: 1 hour

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