Test for Clay in Soil

All right here, I am with a couple of mason jars some dish soap and a garden trowel and you may as well stick around and see what I’m planning to do with them Hey, it’s Jason here with Fraser Valley rose for sure the title ruined the suspense of what I’m gonna do today It’s a mason jar soil test to check for clay in my soil What I want to show you here, is that my soil is quite heavy During the summer it’s clay enough that when it dries out it starts to develop those big cracks in the surface So I treat it as a clay soil I grow things in here that are appropriate for it But I want to show you how to do the actual physical test to see if it is a clay soil What I’ll do here just to take off the organic stuff across the top I’m just going to scrape off the top there because having a big chunk of wood and the jar isn’t gonna. Tell me anything The next thing I’m gonna do is dig down in here and reveal the soil And into the jar it goes can see from the surface of the soil there how Smooth that is, and it’s heavy, and it sticks together, which is my first indication that this is a clayish type soil And keep on getting Soil samples Everywhere from around the region of that it’s best to mix it in a little bit hopefully get don’t just get one little piece of soil from one part of the hole, but go ahead and Get a real representative sample would like to have for this kind of test is even up to about half of the jar and I’ll take that in and show you how to prepare it inside there And I want to go get one more sample so follow me here in a very different spot in our garden I want to get a different soil sample because I know from experience that This place is a little bit rock here a little bit sand here so may as well Take a sample run the test there at the same time Yeah, if you feel there Already I can feel there’s gravel in there There’s rocks and that kind of thing in there. I’ll sort that out a bit inside But I have a feeling that this is gonna come up a little bit different as a result All right the next step in our Mason jar test for soil is to break up the soil a little bit, so I took the first sample here The more clay sample from my estimation, and I’ve dumped it out into this bin here and what I’m gonna do is I’m just going to break it up and part of the Getting the best results is to Have it completely dissolved into the water solution So the more you can break it up now And shake it up once you get it into the jar You should be fine. You can see this one here is pretty Homogenous that is all of the parts are pretty clayish and pretty much the same consistency And so I don’t have too many Bits of rock or anything that looks quite different from the soil here But once I have it all dissolved into the water and shake it up and let it settle down you should actually see some Distinctions between the sand and the silt here and the clay type particles that are in there so I’m going to put it back into the jar and We’ll do the next step in the test This one is the second sample from the other jar and Sometimes I show you as I break this one up here. That is not quite as homogenous You can see I’ve got some big chunks of Rock in here And you can actually hear There’s a little more gravel in this soil here now. I don’t think it’s going to help me out a lot to determine the soil Texture to have these big chunks of rock in there So I will screen those out before I put that back in the jar But this is what the second soil looks like before I begin the soil test Here’s the next step isn’t gonna add Just a little bit of dish soap Less than a teaspoon Into each jar That’s just to help to dissolve and suspend and divide the layers and then Add some water Almost to the top you just want to leave a little bit of room on the top for shaking And for the second sample Same deal I’m going to apply the lids here You can see this one used to be apparently peaches from August of 2015 And the next step here, I may take a little while to shake it up So it might go off camera on that, but the point being that the more thoroughly this is mixed The more suspended each of the types of soil becomes in the solution then when I set it down It will divide So the first thing I have to do is shake it up and do that to both here now And I’ll turn this back on in a second I’ve given these a couple minutes of shaking now and actually want to show you something Kind of interesting this was the first sample from that clay spot. I showed you and you can hear as I’m shaking it a little rattling as one or two pieces of sand or gravel in the bottom Rattle around this is the second sample from the sand to your location. I don’t know if you can pick that up But it’s definitely a lot more gravel So this is the fun part of the test you can see That from the time I set it down Almost immediately any gravel or sand that’s in that suspension Drops to the bottom So what you see settling at the bottom there after five seconds even ten seconds is All the sand and gravel in that solution Have dropped out This one here as well So I’m not gonna be able to tell anything quite yet, the timeline goes like this in The first five or ten seconds all the sand and gravel drops out Then over the course of the next 30 minutes. You should see all of the silt drop out But you might not even get a distinct line there because all of the clay that’s in that top portion there will still be suspended in the water and So it’s going to take 24 hours or more for all that clay to drop down into the third layer What I’ll do then is I’ll take a new video for both of these samples here And I’ll show you How much ends up being sand how much end ups ends up being silt and in the top layer how much ends up being clay? Step two in my artificial time-lapse here it’s now being about thirty minutes since I shook the jars and within the first five minutes I Took a sharpie here, and I marked down the rough edge of the sand layer See it’s a little bit lower in the first jar here than it is in the second jar and the next layer up here Settling within about the first 30 minutes should be the silt layer I’m not going to mark that quite yet Because I think it may have some more settling to go down there as the water separates from the silt, and this top portion here Contains some silt and some Clay that will settle out within the next 24 hours or so and that should be in the next section I take This is the results video You know I’ve had these sitting here for about a week actually is what it came out to Just cuz it got busy with other things. You can see that the At the top of the jars has cleared up Significantly it took a long time for that for all the clay particles in there to drop down and form those clay layers At the top of the jar there, so this is the results and I’ll show you how to calculate that and where to go to get the texture so what I did is I put a little mailer down at the bottom here because the mason jars don’t go right down to the surface and On this first sample here what I found after doing the Doing the calculations and the counts here is that your total height on that was about 63 millimeters total sand was 22 silt was around 30 and clay was around 11 I did the same thing on the other jar the sample from the rockier soil and What I found there was that of a total of 61 millimeters about 30 was sand 25 was silt and only 6 was clay so then the question becomes what does that mean? If you’re trying to figure out what the with a scientific classification Which texture is here’s a website all actually posted along the bottom where you can just insert the? Percentages now the percentages you would get by taking each of those layers Depth and dividing it by the total so for instance on this first sample here to get the percentage of sand of 22 Was the layer divided by 63? gives me a percentage of approximately 35% and you can put that into the calculator at 35 percents and put in your clay percentage and It will calculate out the silt percentage for you and give you a texture classification in this case it put me right on the border of a loam or a silty loam Now should that surprise me? Actually if you just asked me without doing the test like this How does my soil behave? is it heavy? is it light? does it drain and everything else the answer I give you is: well it acts a bit like a clay and What I mean by that is it’s it’s heavy, it’s hard to dig it’s a cool in the spring and takes a long time to warm up that it’s When it dries out it gets those cracks across the top So it acts a lot like a clay soil, and it’s very fertile and moisture retentive and everything else But when you actually take the textural analysis it ends up being a silt loam this one over here by the same process and remember that one was the head of chunky rocks in it as I dug it out from the garden and if you do the analysis on that one it ends up being just straight in the area of category of loam on the sandy side But this one here would need probably about ten percent more clay to be considered a clay soil And this one would need probably about five percent more sand to be considered even a sandy loam so both of these are in the kind of loam category and But they actually even within that group have a lot of differences between them So I guess my takeaway on this is you don’t really know the specific well at least the scientific texture of your soil Until you do a test like this And it could be helpful in knowing how to treat it and what amendments you could use and so on If you have any questions about how this went or about the test or anything else or comments, please leave them below. Thank you

7 thoughts on “Test for Clay in Soil

  1. Great video. I'm in Rancho Cordova California and the ground I have is old Mining tailings from Dredging the river in the 1800s .the houses In my neighborhood were built in the 1950s. As a result my ground is inundated with cobbles from 1" to 10". I plan on planting bare root roses next Spring. When I dig the holes do you suggest I take the rocks out?

  2. Hallo Jason i want do a test with my roses i Bay some rosen ,and try in a soil padi kaft mix humus.i sent some picture for you.

  3. I like the principle you are working with, but I would calculate my percentages from volume instead. Just fill the jars with water to the lines and then measure the volume.

  4. I disagree largely with this method as being unscientific. Because when I separate clay from soil, I fill up a bucket, dissolve all of the particles, wait 5 min, then pour off the liquid, rehydrate the bucket and pour again. I do that because if you pour off all the clay water after the first settling, there will be a top layer of the silt if you do this properly, but you can pick up that top layer of silt and its still sticky, ergo it still has clay in it. So you run water in the bucket again, swish it around, wait 5 min, pour that water off, and then keep testing and doing this until you have a silt layer that doesnt stick at all.

    What this means is that if you allow a completely dissolved soil sample to settle, the silt will still contain a reasonable amount of clay in it, thus the test is flawed in determining the true percentage. This is a shorthand guide like rounding off the number Pi, but it is not the real thing itself.

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