Fort Collins Conservation District

Ron Neher

Get to Know Your Soil

By: Ron Neher, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Retired

Whether you have recently moved to an area or have lived there a long time, the soil types and characteristics on your property are what you have to live with. And with local soil types ranging from sandy sand to heavy clay, - what kind do you have?

With such diverse soil resources in the area there is no telling what you have. And unless you care, - I mean really care, - you probably don’t know what type of soil you ended up with. You could have anything from loamy sand to silty clay, - or soils with pH problems, underlying restrictive layers, or who know what. Or you could have a really great soil resource to work with, - lucky you!

Many people look at a garden spot with its best characteristic being location, location, location. They don’t consider, - initially anyway, - the overall resource and that “spot’s” ability to produce their bounty of veggies and other produce which they will use to sustain them and their family nutritionally. The main thing is that it is in a good area.

Problems associated with soils can be quite varied. With some soil types you will possibly have low organic matter content, - that can be addressed and amended. Some soils will have pH problems too low or maybe too high, - that can be improved.

So what do you have? What soil type (or types) and their associated properties and characteristics do you own or are trying to work with? It is obvious that once you find out exactly the current capabilities of your gardening area, or area where you are trying to grow something, and notice it isn’t up to par, - well what are you going to do?

Thanks to the current cyber world of NRCS, local soil survey information can now be researched and generated at your own personal computer. Before this website was developed and made available to the public, soil survey information was restricted to reference copies of a soil survey publication in book form and other resources only available through NRCS field office staff.

Today you can research soil survey information at home. Log onto http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/

  1. click on Start WSS
  2. select State and County and enter the state and county you wish to review
  3. click the View button. Your selected county will appear on the right without an ortho image
  4. click on the AOI (area of interest) rectangle button on the top center an draw your geographic area of interest. The colored ortho image will appear on your monitor
  5. click on the Soil Map tab and your soils will be identified and described to the left of the ortho map

There are several other resources available through this website which you can explore and discover.