The Mason Jar Test – Soil Composition

A home soil composition test is the best way to determine what your soil is made of and how it will perform in regard to infiltration rates and nutrient availability.

Follow these simple steps to conduct your own soil composition test:

  • Use a clear, clean, empty jar with a tight lid. A pint or quart Mason jar works fabulously.
  • Fill the jar about half full of garden soil.
  • Fill the jar nearly to the top with water. Leave room for shaking.
  • Tighten the lid and shake the jar for several minutes so that all the particles are in suspension.
  • Set your mason jar soil test aside for several hours, so the particles have a chance to settle. They will separate into clay, silt, and sand layers.


Reading the Results of your Soil Composition Test:


Percolation Test

A home percolation test is a simple way to measure how quickly your soil drains and to determine how much area you need to infiltrate the rainwater during a major event.

Follow these simple steps to conduct your own percolation test:

  1. Dig a 6″-12″ deep hole in your future swale area.
  2. Place a ruler (or stick marked in inches) in the bottom of the hole. The measuring device should reach the top of the hole.
  3. Fill the hole with water several times to saturate the soil. This may take several hours or overnight in clay soils.
  4. Note the time. Fill the hole with water. When the hole is empty, note the time and calculate the time needed to drain the hole.
  5. Convert this rate to minutes per inch (divide the minutes by inches- 120min/5 inches is 24min/in)
  6. Find your percolation rate on the chart below.