Inr.JPG (5988 bytes)

National Department of Agriculture
Institute of Natural Resources (an Associate of the University of Natal)

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Test your soil

If you want to plant vegetables, fruit trees, maize or any other crop, you must first find out whether the soil is clay, sandy or loamy because crops do not always grow well in all kinds of soil.

Clay soil

Water does not pass easily into clay and plant roots do not grow easily. Therefore fruit trees do not grow well in clay soil.

clay.JPG (1155 bytes)

Sandy soil

Water passes quickly into sandy soil, roots grow easily but the soil becomes dry quickly. Therefore fruit trees will need nutrients and regular watering.

sandy.JPG (9086 bytes)

Loam soil

Contains sand and silt. Roots grow easily. It holds water and nutrients, therefore fruit trees grow well.

loam.JPG (9064 bytes)


How to test the soil

Take a handful of soil. Feel the soil. Is it rough, smooth or sticky?

Wet the soil in your hand and try to make a sausage. Then look at the following table and decide what kind of soil it is.

What does the soil feel like?

Can it roll into a sausage?

What does the sausage look like?

Type of soil

Very rough


Vsandy.JPG (2656 bytes)

Very sandy


Cannot bend

sandyB.JPG (3630 bytes)



Can bend a little

Sloam.JPG (3372 bytes)

Sandy loam

A little sandy, quite  smooth but not sticky

Can bend halfway round

LSloam.JPG (3945 bytes)

Loam or silt loam

A little sandy, quite smooth and sticky 

Can bend more than halfway round

CLSloam.JPG (5193 bytes)

Clay loam or sandy loam 

Smooth and sticky

Can bend into a ring

clayB.JPG (6104 bytes)


If you find that the soil in your garden has too much clay or too much sand, you can improve it by adding lots of compost or manure.

For further information contact your nearest extension officer or the Institute of Natural Resources, Private Bag X01,
Scottsville 3209


Compiled by Directorate Communication, National Department of Agriculture
in cooperation with the
Institute of Natural Resources (an Associate of the University of Natal)

Printed and published by National Department of Agriculture
and obtainable from
Resource Centre, Directorate Communication, Private Bag X144, Pretoria 0001, South Africa