There is a very simple method for testing what soil type you have and it involves soil, a little bit of water and your hands!

What Soil Type?
What Soil Type?

What Soil Type do I have?

Knowing what soil type you have is handy, because certain plants prefer certain soils and growing the right plant in the right soil keeps the plants and the soil happy! For example, there is no point in growing reeds in very sandy soil as reeds like water and sand dries out quickly. Most plants prefer a slightly clayey soil with lots of organic matter (compost, plant remains, dead leaves etc). If you want to grow your own vegetables, you may need to improve your soil by adding compost to the vegetable beds.

There are 5 main soil types


Here is a simple method to test what soil type you have in your garden:

  • Dig up a little bit of soil with a trowel around 10cm deep
  • Rub a little bit of soil in between your hands:
    Does the soil feel gritty if you rub it between your fingers? This means the soil contains sand.
    Does the soil feel silky or soapy? This means it contains silt.
    Does the soil feel very smooth and sticks under boots etc? This means it contains clay
  • Now moisten the soil sample a little and try to form a ball that sticks together, if it does try to roll that ball in a sausage that sticks together, if this also works, try to form the sausage into a ring without it falling apart or breaking. 
  • Here is what soil type you have:

  • Not even a ball
    = sandy soil
    Ball only  
    = sand or loam
    If it felt gritty: sand
    if it felt only slightly gritty: loam
    Ball + Sausage
    = loam or silt or clay
    If it felt silky/soapy: silt
    if it felt slightly gritty: loam
    if it felt sticky: clay
    Ball + Sausage + Ring
    = silt or clay
    If it felt silky/soapy: silt
    if it felt very smooth and sticky: clay

I've left peat out, because there are not very many people who have peat in their gardens and if you have, you'll probably know!

Texture Ball Sausage Ring Soil Type
very gritty no no no sand
very gritty yes no no sand
slightly gritty yes no no loam
silky/soapy yes yes no silt
slightly gritty yes yes no loam
smooth/sticky yes yes no clay
silky/soapy yes yes yes silt
smooth/sticky yes yes yes clay