Soil Resources

Knowing what type of soil you have in your backyard/garden can help determine which types of native plants you purchase. For instance, some plants are better suited for high pH gardens. Knowing the nutrient composition of your soil will also be helpful in choosing plants and planning your garden.

How Do I Test My Soil?

We recommend getting your soil tested through the UMass Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory

UMass is able to do routine soil analysis as well as organic matter, soluble salts, and nitrate testing.

How to Test Soil Moisture

Soil moisture is also key component in determining what type of plants you should grow in your garden. Watering your garden is very important but your soil has a resting moisture content and knowing what that is can be a huge time and cost saver.

The easiest way to check soil moisture is to do it by hand or visual observation.

For more detailed instructions, please visit this resource.

For a visual observation:

  • Dry soil:
  • Light colored and compact soil
  • Wet or waterlogged Soil
  • Dark colored, muddy, squishy, or mossy
  • Mossy soils are good for growth but too wet can risk root rot

Two methods of hand feeling for moisture

Method 1: Cloth/paper

  • Checking beyond visual inspection involves using a hand towel or sharp spade 
  • Dig straight down about two feet 
  • Make a second slice about an inch front of the first slice then with your hands, grab the soil slice you just made 
  • Lay the soil on a piece of paper or fabric and check for dark areas
    • If the soil is light it is dry
    • If it is dark it is moist 
  • Use a ruler to measure how far down the moisture goes

Method 2: By hand

  • Grab a handful of soil and squeeze to check for moisture 
  • If the soil sticks together it is moist 
  • If the soil crumbles or remains in a loose pile it is dry 
  • Additionally if you brush off your hand and it looks clean your soil is probably dry