Monday, 19 July 2010


KorganIconToday I did a whole bunch of crap. One of those things was a fast, crude soil test on a box of soil I dug up in a nearby abandoned plot of land. I did two tests with it: I did a quality test and I did a pH test.

The quality test measures the proportion of different materials in the soil sample. If you mix a bunch of soil with water in a glass jar, stir it up and let it settle, it will settle into layers of different materials. You can then measure the height of each layer to figure the proportion of the materials in the soil. Here's a sketch to explain:

So I did this, and left the jar sit all day, and I got this:

As you can see, it's pretty much a jar of clay and water. Not the best for planting in but awesome if I want to make pottery and bake it in the sun.

The second test I did was a pH test. I'm well aware that you can measure pH electronically or with litmus strips, but this is my fast, unrefined method:

  • Take a small soil sample.
  • Split it evenly into two small containers.
  • Add water to one sample, enough to just cover it.
  • In the sample with water, add a small amount of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
  • If it creates small bubbles, the soil sample is acidic.
  • If not, add vinegar to the other sample.
  • If it creates small bubbles, the soil sample is alkali.

I did this test once before and the baking soda sample fizzed, confirming it was acidic soil. I did the same test with this soil sample and got no fizzing in either case, which indicates that the soil is pretty neutral.

Despite the field being full of neutral clay, there's an asston of wild plants growing there, as should be expected. I took photographs of every plant I could find there, came home and tried to identify them all, and then grouped them into their respective families. It's all very interesting and that will be my next blog.


  1. I LOVE IT!
    Reminded myself I don't need to rely on technology...
    Just now found your blog while searching for baking soda ph test... I knew I found the right spot when your description of your planter sounds exactly like mine, and all sections of a kitchen counter that I found on the curb and drug home..stoked to read more!
    I'm guessing you're deep down south somewhere dealing with all that clay..
    I am in Portland with a very confused garden because of this year's never ending spring ... I would give a front tooth to hit 90
    Anyways, thanks for the info!
    hss at joimail dt com

  2. Yep it's all clay here. Thanks for the comment.