Testing soil texture

According to it’s composition a soil is classified as ‘sandy’, ‘loamy’ or ‘clayey’.

  • Sandy soil shows great aeration and drainage, dries out quickly, it’s often poor because it doesn’t keep nutrients well and doesn’t break down easily to offer new nutrients
  • Loamy soil shows good balance between aeration and drainage, has good water retention, keeps nutrients and breaks down into nutrients.
  • Clayey soil is heavy, doesn’t drain well, plants get waterlogged, nutrient rich

Take a handful of soil from your garden (moist but not wet), give it a firm squeeze and check the resulting bolus. Also try to roll it between two hands to form a ribbon.

no coherence, no ribbon, grains stick to your fingers Sand
fragile bolus, no more than 5 mm ribbon Loamy sand
fragile bolus, sticky when wet, grains stick to your fingers, clay stains
on fingers, up to 15 mm ribbon
Clayey sand
fragile bolus, sand grains visible, up to 25 mm ribbon Sandy loam
coherent bolus, spongy, no obvious sand, up to 25 mm ribbon, may feel
greasy if much organic matter is present
coherent but will crumble, very smooth and silky, 25 mm ribbon Silty loam
strongly coherent bolus, sand grains, 25 to 40 cm ribbon Sandy clay loam
coherent bolus, spongy feel, plastic when squeezed, smooth to manipulate,
40 to 50 cm ribbon
Clay loam
plastic bolus, sand grains, 50 to 75 mm ribbon Sandy clay
smooth plastic bolus, 50 to 75 mm ribbon Light clay
smooth plastic bolus, like plasticine, 50 to 75 mm ribbon Medium clay
smooth plastic bolus, like stiff plasticine, at least 75 mm ribbon Heavy clay