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Is Your Soil Supercharged? Take The Underwear Test to Find Out

Is Your Soil Supercharged? Take The Underwear Test to Find Out

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I’ve started a new hobby recently which involves trying unusual hacks related to gardening. Some are pretty interesting and others, to put it mildly, don’t make sense. 

But that didn’t stop me from searching for more. And imagine my surprise when I came across a weird name for a soil test: the underwear test. 

My first thought was, why on earth would anyone put the words underwear and soil together? Well, they did, and the curious gardener in me whispered: try it!

Of course, I gave it a shot, but before I dive in, I need to make sure we’re on the same page by reviewing some key details!

This Is The Story Behind The Underwear Test

I sound like my biology teacher right now, but some things need to be said. So, the soil consists of numerous microbes, bacteria, and fungi, and these little guys are responsible for the soil activity. 

They aren’t visible to the naked eye, so the best way to check them is by using a microscope. And this is where the underwear test steps in. 

In this little experiment, it will replace the microscope and tell us more about the activity in our soil. If the activity is good, our soil is suited for planting our green buddies

How can you know if the activity is good? If the piece of fabric decomposes, tiny organisms in your soil are doing their job perfectly!

Admit it, you expected a more complicated explanation! I did too, and then I realized this is actually a logical way of thinking.  

Before You Start

Of course, the first thing you need is underwear. Ok, I didn’t exactly use undies and there are two reasons why. First, I did this project with my daughter and I was afraid she’d be telling other people that we buried our underwear in our yard. 

And the second reason is, well, the very thought of underwear. I guess I don’t need to explain this one. 

So, I decided to use linen. You can use any other type of fabric as long as it’s made of natural materials. Avoid using synthetic fabrics at all costs because the microplastic particles found in them could contaminate the soil

I wanted to keep things simple, so the linen was around 8 inches long.

I also prepared the standard hand shovel and markers (strips made of plastic containers) to know where I put the linen. 

This experiment lasts for about six weeks and you can do it at any time of the year. I started it in mid-March and read the results in late April.

Bear in mind that you won’t be able to plant anything on the selected patch for a month and a half. 

Now, Take The Test

Here comes the fun part! All you need to do is to follow these 4 simple steps: 

1. Bury the fabric: Make a hole in your soil approximately 6 inches deep and put the linen into it. Stretch it carefully and add more soil until it’s refilled to its original level.

2. Add markers: It’s important to label the area, especially if you’re one of those forgetful gardeners. Well, me too! I made labels from old plastic containers and they were pretty long because I was scared rain would make them sink.

3. Wait a month and a half: Now you need to wait for the microbes to do their work. Or not. Be patient, and remember, no peeking!

4. Dig out everything: Take a hand shovel and dig out where you put the linen.

And Read The Results

Excited? If your linen isn’t in one piece after you take it out, that’s actually a good sign! The less linen, the better the microbial activity in your soil!

I was left with about 20% of the linen when I gathered all the pieces. To my surprise, there was even some mycelium (white substance) on the labels. 

Honestly, I expected good results since I make my own compost and regularly amend my soil. However, I didn’t expect the results to be this good! I admit, I was proud.

So, are you ready to put your soil to the test? The underwear (or linen) test is all you need! Weird? Yes. Fun and effective? Also yes! May the soil odds be ever in your favor.