However, clay soil often gets a bad rap because of some of its characteristics. Wet clay soils stick to your shoes. And because the individual soil particles are so small, clay has smaller air spaces. As a result, it drains water slowly and is slow to warm up in Spring. When dry, clay soil cracks and makes your garden look like the Mojave Desert.
Sandy Soil: Sandy soils are the opposite of clay and generally drain too fast, and so are unable to hold onto any nutrients long enough for a plant to use them. Organic matter helps to hold onto water and nutrients, and as with clay, it's almost impossible to add too much. Sand is the opposite of clay in many ways. Because of the large particle size, sand has lots of air spaces, so it drains water quickly and warms up fast. These characteristics make it ready to plant in Spring sooner than clay. However, it's also the first type of soil to dry out in summer and doesn't hold nutrients as well as clay.
The Squeeze Test: Silt is like the right bed in Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. It has medium-size particles, so it holds some water, but not too much. It holds some nutrients, but not as many as clay. It warms up fast in the Spring, but not as quickly as sand. A soil dominated by silt is a gardener's friend.
To do this test, be sure your soil is damp, but not soaking wet. Grab a small handful of the soil in your hand. Rub some of the soil between your fingers. If it feels gritty, it's mostly sand. If it feels slick and slimy, it's mostly clay.
The Ribbon Test: Take a handful of damp soil and make a ribbon by rolling the soil between your hands. If you can form a ribbon and hold it vertically without it breaking, you have mostly clay soil. If you can make a ribbon, but it breaks off when you try to hold it up, you probably have somewhere between 25 and 50 percent clay in your soil. If you can't make a ribbon at all, chances are your soil is more than half sand.
The Jar Test is for the scientist in the crowd. It's a bit more precise than the other tests. To do this test, take soil from a number of places in your garden and mix the samples together in a bucket. Scoop up a cup of your soil and follow these steps