Soil texture is one of the most important properties to know how to measure, as it affects the water-holding capacity, water movement through the soil, soil strength, and soil fertility. Discover how to test for soil texture in your garden.

Produced by the Department of Communications at Kansas State University. For more information, visit our website at:

Texture Analysis of Soils

This is a sample that I ran at home, and this is to determine the soil texture – which is the amount of sand, silt, and clay in the soil. That will tell you a little bit about your soil’s drainage and water retention capabilities. All you need to do is take an empty jar, fill it with soil to about half way. Then fill it about 7/8 or 3/4 of the way full of water. Put the lid on and shake it, and then let it settle out.

As you watch it settle, in 30 seconds, you’ll see the sand come out first. Those are the largest particles. In 30 minutes, you’ll see the silt layer come out. Those are your medium sized particles. And then over the next 24 hours, as the water clears up, you’ll see the clay settle out. So you can see what your soil texture is.

This is a soil sample that I ran with my soil at home. I don’t have very much sand, but I do have quite a lot of silt that has settled out to this layer. And then I also have quite a bit of clay, which is very typical of my soil at home. The water is starting to clear, but at the same time I can look at the surface of the water and see the organic matter floating on the top. This will tell me a little bit about the health of my soil and the organic matter content. So these are the first tests I would run as a home gardener on my soil at home.

This feature story prepared with Rhonda Janke, Kansas State University Research and Extension, Sustainable Cropping Systems. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

Horticulture Newsletter

KSU Horticulture Newsletter

Get more information from our weekly newsletter.

Find Your Local Office

Have questions or need help?

Local Extension Office Map

Click the map to find your Local Extension Office.

YouTube Videos

YouTube Videos

Watch K-State Research and Extension Videos.

Kansas Healthy Yards Tagline