Skip to main content


Open Main MenuClose Main Menu

Improving Soil Quality

Dig in and get to know your soil

Having a beautiful, growing landscape starts with a healthy soil. A teaspoon of healthy soil contains about 1 billion bacteria, which recycle nutrients, break down organic matter and give soil its earthy smell.


What's your soil texture?

he Oklahoma State University Soil, Water and Forage Analytical Laboratory can determine the specific texture of your soil or you can approximate your soil texture with the “texture by feel” method.  Knead moist soil in your hand and squeeze it between your fingers.

  • A clay soil feels smooth and sticky and sticks to shoes. Clay soils hold water very tightly and drain slowly relative to sandy soils.
  • A loam soil feels partly gritty and partly smooth. It forms a ball that breaks easily when squeezed.  This type of soil is easy to work and has a high water holding capacity.
  • A sandy soil is gritty and will not stay in a ball. Water drains quickly through sandy soil relative to clay soil since it has large pore spaces.

Improve soil quality with 3 easy steps

1.  Add Compost
Compost is a nutrient rich material that forms from the breakdown of organic materials. When added to soil, it loosens clay and helps sandy soils retain moisture and nutrients.

Ingredients for compost

  • Most yard waste like grass clippings, leaves, and twigs (avoid composting weeds or grass clippings from the lawn that have received persistent herbicide applications.)
  • Non-fat containing food scraps
  • Straw
  • Chipped branches
  • Coffee grounds


Alternate green (wet materials) and brown layers (dry) in a bin or pile. Keep the pile moist and periodically turn the pile to speed up decomposition.


2.  Aerate Your Yard

Aerating is the process of taking small plugs out of the ground or forcing tines into the soil to reduce soil compaction and increase air flow, water infiltration, and nutrient intake. Different types of aerating machines can be rented or purchased from local stores.


3.  Fertilize Appropriately

Take the guess work out of fertilizer application.


If you know what nutrients your soil needs you can grow healthy plants. The OSU Soil, Water, and Forage Analytical Lab can help you determine the nutrients in your soil and give you recommendations based on your test. The Oklahoma County Extension Office can provide you with more information.


A list of county Extension offices is available at:


For more information on soil testing, visit: 


The City of Oklahoma City has partnered with the Oklahoma State University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture to help promote outdoor water conservation.


For more information about how you can save water outdoors check out these websites:


Was this information helpful?
Fact Sheet
Cause and Effects of Soil Acidity

Learn about how soil acidity can be a problem for plant growth in much of Oklahoma but is most prevalent in central and eastern OK. Because acid conditions are more common in eastern Oklahoma due to its natural occurrence producers are generally better able to manage soil acidity in that part of the state. In central and western Oklahoma, the soils are not naturally acidic but have become acidic overtime. This fact sheet explains why soils become acidic and the problems acid soils create for plant growth.

CropsFertilizationSoilSoil Health & Fertility
Fact Sheet
Soil Testing, The Right First Step Toward Proper Care of Your Lawn and Garden

Understanding soil tests allow lawn managers to effectively grow lawns and productive gardens by knowing what is missing from the soil and how to improve it.

SoilSoil Testing
Fact Sheet
How to Get a Good Soil Sample

By Brian Arnall. Learn about specific considerations which should be taken into account to get the greatest benefit from soil testing.

SoilSoil Testing
Fact Sheet
Oklahoma Agricultural Soil Test Summary 2018-2022

By Hailin Zhang and Barbara McCray. Read through the Oklahoma agricultural soil test summary for the years 2018-2022. You will learn the necessity of evaluating the soil fertility information for each individual county or state when estimating nutrient needs, tracking changes in soil pH and nutrient levels and when serving as a guideline for fertilizer and manure application.

SoilSoil Health & FertilitySoil Testing
Back To Top