Knowing what kind of soil you have in your garden or yard is the first step in growing plants successfully. The ideal soil for most kinds of plants is a rich, dark, loamy soil. However, most U.S. soils have some sand and clay soil. You can find out what kind of soil is present on your property with an easy-to-learn process.
Take soil samples of about one cup each from several areas of your yard; place samples in plastic bags or containers. Label each container with masking tape and marker so you can keep track of where they came from. Be sure to take samples from different parts of the property--hills, ditches, flat areas and depressions.
Test the soil by adding water to it. Work the soil and water with your fingers until it is moist throughout. Try to form the soil into a ball.
Determine whether the soil is clay or not. If it formed a ball, observe it further. If you can form it into a ribbon of about 2 inches or longer, and it is very sticky and stains your hands, it is a clay soil. If it makes a shorter ribbon, it could be a loamy soil. You can determine the amount of sand in the soil by pinching it between your thumb and finger and rubbing slowly; if there is a lot of grit, it can be considered a sandy clay or sandy loam.
Identify whether it is a partially sandy soil. If it forms a ball, but not a ribbon, and feels very gritty between thumb and finger, it is a loamy sand soil. If it's soft instead of gritty, it's more silt than sand.
See whether the ball falls apart or not. If the soil doesn't form a ball of any kind, but just falls apart in your hand, the texture is a pure sandy soil. This is one of the less common soil types, as most sandy soils have some degree of loam or clay overlap.
Keep testing each sample and identifying where the most sandy soil is present on your property. Most soils are mixed, so you may not find a very sandy soil at any one point, but comparing the numbered results with their origins should help lead you toward the sandy spots in the yard.