How to Check Soil Health


Soil health is fundamental to the success of any gardening or farming project. A robust soil ecosystem supports vibrant plant growth, ensures nutrient availability, and bolsters environmental sustainability. To uncover the secrets beneath the surface, it’s essential to know how to assess the health of your soil. This guide will explore the techniques and tools necessary for evaluating soil vitality, emphasizing methods that align with sustainable practices promoted by Reddonatura.

Soil Colour:

The colour of the soil is a direct clue to its health. Dark, rich-coloured soils usually have a high organic matter content, essential for nutrient availability. In contrast, lighter soils may lack organic matter and require amendments to boost fertility. Assess soil colour by comparing a soil sample to a colour chart that ranges from light tan to dark brown.

pH Levels:

The pH level of soil affects nutrient availability and plant health. Most plants thrive in a slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.0 to 7.5). Use a pH meter or a testing kit to determine the pH of your soil. Adjusting the pH can help ensure that your plants have access to the nutrients they need for optimal growth.

Nutrient Levels:

A thorough check of soil health includes nutrient assessment. Soil testing labs can analyse your soil for key nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulphur. This information helps tailor your fertilization strategy, avoiding nutrient excesses and promoting a balanced soil ecosystem.

Organic Matter Content:

Organic matter plays a significant role in soil fertility and structure. Healthy soils are rich in decomposed plant and animal materials, which aid nutrient cycling and water retention. To evaluate organic matter, perform a simple 'squeeze test' to check soil structure, or observe how organic material decomposes over time.

Microbial Activity:

Microorganisms are vital for soil health, breaking down organic material, releasing nutrients, and improving soil structure. A DIY 'slake test' can reveal microbial activity: drop a dry soil clump into water and watch how quickly it disintegrates—a fast breakdown suggests active microbial life.

Infiltration Rate:

The rate at which soil absorbs water is crucial. Healthy soil should allow water to permeate, not run off, preventing erosion and enhancing irrigation effectiveness. Perform a percolation test by digging a hole, filling it with water, and timing how long it takes to drain. Good drainage is key to avoiding waterlogged conditions detrimental to plant roots.


Assessing soil health is crucial for successful gardening and sustainable agriculture. By evaluating soil texture, color, pH, nutrients, organic matter, microbial activity, and infiltration rate, you gain comprehensive insights into your soil’s health. This knowledge enables informed decisions about soil management, ensuring your plants thrive. With a strong soil foundation, your garden or farm is set for success.