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Soil Test Understanding

 
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Dear Members,

I was looking to possibly purchase some land in Missouri and the soil test was provided with the realtor.  Sadly, they can't explain the results to me and after reaching out to the Department of Soil/Conservation, the Missouri College (soil department), and local county soil department, I still can't get anyone to explain the results to me.  I wanted to see if someone could share their thoughts on the soil type of....."Rueter very gravely silt loam, 15-35% slopes, very stony" and "Rueter-Hildebrecht complex, 3-15 % slopes, stony".   When I tried to research this on my own, I believe it to be saying that soil has silt and sand as the major components with no mention of clay.  However, I'm not sure if this is correct, and what does this mean to me?  I'm wanting to purchase land to place an off-grid retirement home (no electric, no sewer, no wells) and would like to have the land self-sustaining.  I'm not sure on this type of soil if it would be wise to have a few animals or garden and wanted to see if anyone understood this better that may offer some thoughts.  I'm not opposed to helping modifying the land to make it better, but would like to understand if it is needed or what others think of this type of soil for my situation. If I wanted to purchase the land could I add layers of wood chips/cardboard to build up an area for gardening but appreciate any education/thoughts from people who may understand this much better.  Thanks in advance for any help.

Thanks
 
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Jennifer Hitch wrote:"Rueter very gravely silt loam, 15-35% slopes, very stony"  
"Rueter-Hildebrecht complex, 3-15 % slopes, stony".



These descriptions come from a soil mapping project, and may have little to do with what actually exists on a small acreage in the overall project. "Complex" means that the soil types get jumbled together in a mapping unit.

Most people would call "silt loam" a clay, due to the subtle differences between silt and clay.

The relatively high fertility of Rueter and Hildebrecht soils make them suitable for agriculture. Clay accumulates in the subsoil.

Around here, people farm on slopes of less than 20%, and run animals on slopes greater than that.
 
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Jennifer, welcome to the forum.

Have you seen the land in person?

This statement gives me some concern that the land might be steep and rocky.

If you have seen the land then I would say all is okay.

Rueter soils are on steep side slopes and narrow ridgetops. Slope gradients range from 3 to 70 percent, but are dominantly 15 to 50 percent. These soils formed in colluvium and residuum from cherty limestone or interbedded sandstone and cherty dolomite. The mean annual precipitation ranges from 38 to 48 inches, and the mean annual temperature ranges from 54 to 58 degrees F.



https://soilseries.sc.egov.usda.gov/OSD_Docs/R/RUETER.html

Once you purchase the land, it would be good to have a soil test done for the area that will be gardened so you will know what amendments the land needs.

I like leaves, coffee grounds, and wood chips as these can be sourced free sometimes.
 
Jennifer Hitch
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All,

Wow, what a wonderful group of members!!  Thanks for the great information.  
I have seen the property and it has some small rolling hills, but really nothing to large or steep.
I have asked to do a soil sample myself on the property prior to purchase as others are saying I might get more detailed information .
Again, I appreciate everyone's help!!
 
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A "loam" means a soil with relatively equal proportions of clay, silt, and sand.  The various adjectives associated with the description alters that relationship.  So, The "silty loam" description means it has more silt in relation to the amounts of clay and sand.  The extra description "very gravely silt loam" means it's a silty loam with lots of gravel in it.

But, you can do some of these tests yourself.  Visit the land with a quart jar, full of clean water.  Dig up a spade full of soil, and first do a "ribbon test".  Moisten the soil slightly, and shape it into a ball in your hand.  If the soil feels greasy when wet, and floury when dry, it's a silty loam.

Do a ribbon test.  Push the soil through your thumb and finger to make a ribbon.  If the ribbon can barely support it's own weight, the clay content is somewhat low.  How long and strong the ribbon can be shaped is an indicator of how much clay is present.  A high-clay soil will make a strong ribbon that can be extended several inches.

Finally, dump the remaining soil into the jar of water, almost filling it.  Shake well to completely suspend all the soil particles, then set the jar down and let them settle by gravity.  You'll see 3-4 bands.  Bottom is sand (maybe gravel below that), middle is silt, and top is clay, with maybe some organic matter floating on top.  The relative proportion of each layer tells you the soil type.

After completing the soil tests, you can check the pH of the water on top with pH paper.  That will give you the idea of whether the soil is acidic, alkaline, or neutral.  Different plants respond differently to soils of different pHs.  Some like acidic soil, some neutral, but few like alkaline.

In regards to installing septic, you do a different test.  This is code dependent, so check with the County code compliance office on this.  Basically, dig a 12" deep hole, and fill completely full with water.  If the hole drains completely within 30 minutes, the soil is suitable for a septic system.  Again, check with the County office first.
 
Jennifer Hitch
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Thank you so much for the information.  I'm so thankful to each of you that have taken the time to help me understand better and offer me additional tests/options to check the soil that I was not aware of.  Looking forward to going back to look at the property again and to do some of the testing/suggestions that have been provided.  Again, thank you to everyone for all the help and education you have shared.  
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