How To Test Soil For Nutrients?

Last update: 2021-04-17

The more you learn about soil, the easier it is to set the right plan to improve it as well as boost your plant growth.

By equipping yourself with knowledge about the soil texture, composition, drainage, acidity, and mineral density, you can avoid disappointing results in building your dream garden. Today, we are going to share with you how to test soil for nutrients. Keep reading!

Test The Soil’s Ph

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?

Soil’s pH plays an important part in helping plants grow well.

It ranges from 0 to 14, with 14 being very alkaline and 0 being very acidic. The ideal soil’s pH ranges for most plants to grow are between 6 and 7.5. When the PH level is higher than 8 or lower than 5, plants will not be able to grow healthily.

Testing it before growing anything is essential. You can invest in a simple pH kit or pH meter that is easily found at any local garden store.

We have written a step-by-step guide about how to check the soil’s pH using a pH kit, check it out here.

Now, here is how to check pH in the soil using a pH meter?

If the soil is too dry, you should moisten it and wait about 20-30 minutes for the soil to stabilize (or until its humidity reaches 40-60%).

Step 1: Plug the tip of the pH meter into the ground as long as its 3 metal rings are fully submerged.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?

If the pH meter is used in a field or farm, after plugging it into the ground, you should stamp the surrounding soil tightly.

Step 2: Wait for 60 seconds, then read the results.

Check The Population Density Of Earthworm In The Soil

Earthworms are a good indicator of soil quality and health, especially in terms of biology. The presence of earthworms in a garden means there are lots of beneficial bacteria in the soil, which is very good for plant growth.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?To determine their population density in your area, follow this guide:

Step 1: Choose a time when the soil is moist and warm - at least 54 degrees F or more.

Step 2: Dig a 12” x 12” hole, get a soil sample, and remove debris, dried leaves, and twigs.

Step 3: Count the number of earthworms.

If there are fewer than 10, that means your soil does not have enough nutrients to allow earthworms to grow, or it is too acid or too alkaline.

Check The Soil’s Drainage Capability

This is important because it helps to determine if your soil has any drainage issues. Some plants, such as herbs, die easily if their roots are submerged in too wet soil.

Here is how to check the drainage capability of your soil:

Step 1: Dig a 6” x 12” hole in the soil.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?Step 2: Fill it with water and wait for the water to drain.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?

Step 3: After the water is drained completely, refill it.

Step 4: Track how long it takes the water drains out.

If the water drains out in under one hour, the soil’s drainage capability is good. Otherwise, there might be some drainage issues that need fixing properly and instantly.

Check The Type Of Soil

Basically, the soil is classified into three categories:

  • Clay
  • Sandy soil
  • Humus

Clay contains abundant nutrients but has poor drainage.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?Sandy soil, on the contrary, drains out quickly, but has some difficulties in moisture and nutrient retention, especially during the rainy season.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?Humus is arguably the most ideal soil type for plants because of its decent drainage capabilities whilst still keeping moisture and nutrient excellent.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?To check the type of your soil, there are two common methods.

Method 1: Through The Soil Structure

Grab some soil, add some water to it and gently knead the soil sample in your palms to make a 2” ball. When the ball begins to stick to your hands, stop adding water and keep kneading it for one more minute.

Now, open your hand and see which of these three cases the ball of soil is in:

1) If it forms a round, small ball and will slightly break when you poke it, it is loamy soil with very good porosity.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?

2) If the soil ball retains its shape well even when you poke it, it is clay soil.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?

3) If the soil can’t form a ball, it is sandy soil.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?Method 2: Through soil composition

Step 1: Collect some topsoil from your garden and pour it into 1/3 of a 1-liter glass bottle. Fill it with water.

How To Test Soil For Nutrients?

Step 2: Cover the mouth of the bottle and shake it vigorously for 2 minutes.

Step 3: Place it on a flat surface and wait for 2 minutes until the larger soil particles begin to settle down at the bottom of the bottle.

Step 4: Mark the sand level on the bottle side.

Step 5: Leave it alone for a few hours for the finer soil particles to settle on the soil layer. You should see slightly different color layers, which show different types of soil particles.

Step 6: Leave the bottle overnight. The next layer above the soil layer is clay. Mark the thickness of this layer. The layer above the clay will be organic matter. Some of these organic substances can float on the water.

Based on the proportions of your soil components, determine the type of your soil. If it is humus, the bottle will be dark and filled with floating organic residue.


We’ve just shown you how to test soil for nutrients that do not require a lot of time, effort, or technology. Hopefully, through this article, you’ll easily determine your soil type to hence find out the best soil reclamation plan. Thanks for reading!

Harry Ramos
Harry Ramos

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