Clay soil makes it difficult to garden or grow plants in. So, how do you know if your soil is clay? The best way to determine whether your soil is clay is to observe how your soil acts after a heavy rain or after days of drought weather.
Look at the Ground
Look at the soil after a heavy rainstorm. If after several hours or even days does the ground have puddles or has it drained away. If you have water still standing, then this is an indication that the ground is clay.
Check the ground after a days of dry weather. If you notice cracks in the ground, this is another sign that your soil has a high clay content.
Another test to see if you may have clay soil is to look at the weeds that are growing in your yard. If you have weeds like creeping buttercup, chicory, coltsfoot, or Canada thistle, this is another visible sign of a clay soil.
Grab a Handful of Damp Soil
A simple test is to reach down and pick up a handful of damp soil. Squeeze the soil in you hand, then open your hand. If the soil falls apart when you open your hand, this is an indication of a sandy soil. If your soil stays as a clump, but falls apart when you poke at it, this means that the soil is normal. If the soil remains as a clump, even if you poked or prod at it, then you have clay soil.
If you want a precise test to determine what kind of soil you have then take a sample of your soil to your local extension agent. They will tell you whether you have a clay soil, sandy or normal type soil.
Fun Test to do With Kids
If you have children, this next soil test is a fun way to teach children about the contents that make up soil. Find an empty glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Wash the jar, removing the label and glue. This will give you a clear view of what’s inside.
Dig a hole into the ground. Have your kids put some of this soil into the jar. Only fill the jar until it is half-full. Add enough water until the jar is three-fourths full. Turn on the lid. Give the kids the jar and let them shake the contents thoroughly. It will look like a jar of mud when they finish shaking. You can’t over-shake this, so every child can have a turn at shaking the jar. Now place the jar somewhere where it won’t get bumped around or moved. If you can put it on a high table, chair or counter, you can look at the contents without having to move the jar. The jar needs to settle, undisturbed, until the contents have settled.
When the water clears up, look at the layers of dirt. The layer at the bottom of the jar will show you how much sand your soil has. The next layer will be silt. The top layer will show you how much clay makes up your soil. If you have a bigger area of clay, then you know that your ground is more clay based.