No matter what type of soil a garden has, it's a combination of sand, organic material, clay and silt. Your soil is characterized by the amount of each component that it contains. Its most important trait, texture, is determined by the sizes of the different particles. Knowing the texture of the soil that you have to work with will make it easier for you to manage conditions for plant performance. Make your own tester to quickly to analyze your soil. While not scientifically exact, it will give you an acceptable approximation.
Fill 1/3 of a quart jar with soil. Top it off with water and cap tightly.
Shake the jar vigorously. Place it on a flat surface to settle where it won't be disturbed for about three days.
Examine your testing jar. Soil components settle in layers, with organic matter floating to the top of the water. Sand particles are the heaviest and fall to the bottom first. Silt will form the next layer, topped by the clay.
Analyze your results as percentages. Ideal texture composition is 45 percent sand, 35 percent silt and 20 percent clay. Organic matter doesn't figure into the texture equation.