The tighty whitie soil test is a great way to measure soil health and demonstrate the value of no-till gardening.
In this post, I will have a brief look at the science behind the test.
Tighty Whitie Soil Test
Healthy soil contains a lot of microbes that need organic matter as a food source, but how can the homeowner measure the level of organic matter? Professional soil tests are expensive and require complicated equipment which is not suitable for DIY gardeners. This is no longer a problem. The tighty whitie soil test can be done by anyone and requires no equipment.
Take some white cotton underwear, weight it and bury it in the garden. Your frilly silk panties may work in the bedroom, but not for this test. And don’t use thongs – they just don’t provide enough organic matter to give an accurate weight.
Warning: it is best to remove the tighty whitie before you bury it.
After 5 weeks, remove the underwear, and weigh it. How much of the cotton was consumed by the microbes?
If most of it is still there, your soil is not very healthy and you need to add compost. If you are left with the elastic, congratulations, your soil is in peak condition.
Scholars Reveal All
The tighty whitie test was conducted by the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition’s first Soil Health School to compare no-till with tilling. The results are presented in the table below.
Clearly, no-till has the healthiest soil (second from the left in the above picture). Less disturbance of the soil results in more microbes which in turn makes it healthier.
Tilled soil (far right in the picture) destroys, not only soil structure but also the life in the soil.
Thanks for this Great Idea
This great soil test was developed by Anthony Bly and Sara Berg of South Dakota State University Extension. It was put into print by Kathy Voth, in On Pasture. Photo and table have been used by permission.
Thanks to these people for making gardening fun, and thanks to the gentlemen for posing in the picture.