Moisture Content & Soils Analysis

Overview

Whether starting a new lawn or rehabilitating an old garden, your best advice is to complete a moisture content and soil analysis using your local state university extension. This inexpensive test will save you time and money in your project.

Function

A soil test measures essential features of the soil from an area. The results of the test tell a property owner what his soil needs in terms of fertilizers, soil conditions and amendments.

Methodology

Soil is collected by the property owner. Soil scientists then separate it into samples that are weighed, hydrated, separated into specific compounds and tested with laboratory procedures to measure elements present and soil qualities.

Moisture Content

The ability to hold moisture is one way to measure types of soil. Soil is hydrated and weighed, then dried out and re-weighed. The difference is used to compute the "percent moisture per weight."

Basic Tests

Three qualities control many of the ways soil functions and its fertility. These are pH (acidity or alkalinity), texture (percentages of sand, silt and clay) and organic content.

Nutrients

Once the soil profile is completed, specific nutrients can be measured. The three main nutrients--nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium--are measured using chemical reagents. Other tests that measure elements like calcium, copper, zinc, sulfur, iron, manganese, boron and nitrates are completed using solutions, electrical conductivity or reagents; they are generally done upon request or due to area-specific concerns.

References

  • University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory: Methods
  • RAIN Public Internet Broadcasting: Soil Types and Testing
  • Kinsey's Agricultural Services: Soil Analysis

Who Can Help

  • University of Missouri: Recommended Chemical Soil Test Procedures
  • UN Economic Commission for Europe ICP Forests: Soil Analysis
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Phosphorus and Organic Matter
Keywords: garden soil, moisture content, soil analysis, university extension

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.