Soil Testing in Sacramento, California

Sacramento, the capital city of California, boasts a diverse range of soil types that reflect its unique geographical and climatic characteristics. From the Sacramento River and its tributaries to the urban landscapes and agricultural regions, the soil composition of Sacramento plays a vital role in shaping the city's environment, economy, and land use practices. Let's delve into the different soil types found in Sacramento and their significance.

  1. Alluvial Soils: Sacramento's soil diversity is strongly influenced by the Sacramento and American Rivers, resulting in the formation of alluvial soils. These soils are characterized by their fertility and high nutrient content, making them well-suited for agriculture. Alluvial soils are common in the Sacramento Valley, particularly in the floodplain areas adjacent to the rivers.

    The fertile alluvial soils have historically supported the city's vibrant agricultural industry, cultivating a wide range of crops such as rice, tomatoes, and sunflowers. These soils are a key contributor to Sacramento's reputation as a significant agricultural center.

  2. Clay Soils: Certain parts of Sacramento, including neighborhoods like Land Park and Curtis Park, feature clay-rich soils. These soils have fine particles that retain water and nutrients effectively, but they can become compacted and poorly drained, particularly during heavy rainfall.

    Proper soil management practices, such as soil aeration and the incorporation of organic matter, are essential for preventing compaction and improving drainage in clay-rich areas.

  3. Sandy Loam Soils: Sandy loam soils are prevalent in Sacramento and are highly favorable for agriculture. Sandy loam is a balanced soil texture that offers good drainage, water-holding capacity, and nutrient retention. These soils support healthy root growth and efficient nutrient uptake by plants.

    Many of Sacramento's crops, such as grapes, citrus fruits, and vegetables, flourish in sandy loam soils, contributing to the city's agricultural diversity and economic prosperity.

  4. Loess Soils: Loess soils, formed from wind-blown deposits of fine particles, are found in parts of Sacramento's surrounding areas. These soils are generally well-drained and fertile, making them suitable for agriculture and plant growth.

    Loess soils contribute to the region's agricultural productivity and offer insights into the geological processes that shape soil formation over time.

  5. Urban Soils: As an urban center, Sacramento features anthropogenic soils resulting from construction, development, and landscaping activities. These soils vary widely in composition and quality, depending on the materials used and the history of the site.

    Effective soil management practices are crucial for promoting healthy vegetation in urban environments. Soil testing, proper plant selection, and irrigation techniques are essential for ensuring the success of urban green spaces and landscaping projects.

  6. Saline and Alkali Soils: Some regions around Sacramento, particularly in areas with poor drainage, experience the presence of saline and alkali soils. These soils contain high levels of soluble salts and can negatively affect plant growth.

    Managing saline and alkali soils involves leaching excess salts from the soil through proper irrigation practices. Salt-tolerant crops and plants can be cultivated in these areas.

  7. Volcanic Soils: In some parts of Sacramento, particularly in areas with volcanic activity in the distant past, volcanic soils can be found. These soils are often rich in minerals and nutrients due to their formation from volcanic ash and rock. Volcanic soils contribute to healthy plant growth and are used for agriculture.

    The presence of volcanic soils highlights the region's geological history and its influence on soil composition.

For soil sampling supplies, we recommend reaching out to these garden centers:

  • Green Acres Nursery & Supply at 8501 Jackson Rd, Sacramento, CA 95826, USA has a 4.7 star rating on Google Maps.
  • The Plant Foundry | Nursery & Store at 3500 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA is a local garden center with premium, drought-tolerant plants & organic supplies, plus statuary & books. It has a 4.5 star rating on Google Maps.
  • Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery at 4681 Fair Oaks Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95864, USA is a local option for a wide selection of plants along with garden supplies, home decor items & gifts. It has a 4.5 star rating on Google Maps.
  • Talini's Nursery at 5601 Folsom Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95819, USA has a 4.5 star rating on Google Maps.
  • K.Y. Home & Garden LLC at 6100 Mack Rd #300, Sacramento, CA 95823, USA has a 4 star rating on Google Maps.
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Understanding Soil Health

Assessing soil health involves looking at physical, chemical, and biological components.

Soil health is a fundamental concept that underpins the success of agriculture, gardening, and land management practices. It refers to the overall well-being and vitality of the soil ecosystem, encompassing physical, chemical, and biological aspects. Understanding soil health is crucial for maintaining sustainable and productive landscapes while also contributing to environmental conservation.

  1. Physical
    The physical properties of soil play a critical role in its health. These properties include soil texture, structure, compaction, and water-holding capacity. Soil texture refers to the proportions of sand, silt, and clay particles in the soil. A balanced texture allows for adequate water drainage and retention, preventing waterlogging and drought stress. Soil structure influences root penetration, aeration, and nutrient movement. Healthy soil structure promotes a friable and well-drained medium for plant growth.
  2. Chemical
    Soil chemistry directly affects nutrient availability and plant growth. Key chemical factors include soil pH, nutrient content, and the presence of contaminants. Soil pH measures the soil's acidity or alkalinity and profoundly influences nutrient uptake by plants. Nutrient content, including macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, must be in balance to support healthy plant growth. Monitoring and maintaining proper nutrient levels through fertilization are essential for maximizing crop yields and preventing nutrient deficiencies.
  3. Biological
    The biological component of soil health pertains to the diverse array of microorganisms, insects, and other organisms that inhabit the soil ecosystem. These organisms play crucial roles in nutrient cycling, organic matter decomposition, and disease suppression. Soil microorganisms break down organic matter, releasing nutrients that are subsequently made available to plants. A rich and diverse soil microbiome contributes to enhanced nutrient availability and plant resilience against diseases.

Our Soil Tests

We provide a range of soil tests from basic chemistry, to texture/infiltration rate, all the way to biology.

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Basic Soil Health Test

The Basic Soil Health Test is an excellent starting point for understanding your soil's condition. It offers a comprehensive analysis encompassing pH levels, nutrient content, CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity), salts, and organic matter. This budget-friendly test is ideal for identifying potential soil health issues and establishing a solid foundation for further management.

Full Chemistry Test

Our Full Chemistry Test provides a detailed assessment of your soil's quality, guiding you towards healthy and sustainable soil management practices. Through an extensive analysis, we examine macro and micronutrient levels, pH, CEC, organic matter, and salinity. This comprehensive understanding empowers us to create tailored recommendations for soil amendments and treatments, optimized for the specific plants you intend to cultivate. By optimizing your soil's chemistry, you can expect to foster more robust and vibrant plant growth.

Complete Soil Health Test

Uncover a deeper understanding of your soil's health with the Complete Soil Health Test. This comprehensive analysis goes beyond the basics, measuring nutritional factors and examining soil texture. It covers macro and micronutrients, organic matter, pH, CEC, as well as sand, silt, and clay percentages. Additionally, we assess carbon sequestration levels, providing you with a holistic view of your soil's composition. The personalized recommendations derived from this test empower you to make precise adjustments to enhance your soil's health and productivity.

MWELO Soil Management Report

For those navigating California's MWELO guidelines, our MWELO Soil Management Report is an indispensable resource. This report not only ensures compliance but also promotes sustainable and thriving landscapes. It includes comprehensive data such as soil texture, infiltration rate, pH, total soluble salts, sodium content, and organic matter percentage. With amendment recommendations, optionally tailored to specific plant types, and annual maintenance tips, you'll be equipped to create landscapes that are both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible.

Heavy Metals

The Heavy Metals analysis is a vital tool in assessing potential soil contamination. Given the uncertain history of properties, this analysis identifies the presence of heavy metals that might have accumulated due to past activities or nearby industrial sources. With results available in approximately nine business days, you'll gain insights to ensure the safety and health of your soil.

Soil Food Web

Explore the intricate world beneath the surface with our Soil Food Web analysis. By estimating population sizes of essential trophic groups—bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes—we unveil the microbiological health of your soil. Additionally, we identify specific organisms within these groups, providing insights into the soil's successional level and overall condition. This analysis is applicable to soil, compost, and compost tea samples, offering a holistic perspective on your soil's biological vitality.

Pesticide Screening

The Pesticide Screening can detect hundreds on common pesticides that may have been applied or drifted from nearby sources.

Herbicide Screening

The Herbicide Screening plays an important role in ensuring the safety of your soil and plants. By detecting the presence of herbicide residues, this test can indicated whether a soil has had history of herbicide applications.

See our other tests.

Regenerative Soil Management Practices

Working with nature to improve soil means implementing practices like cover cropping, mulching, and composting.

Cover Cropping

Cover cropping involves planting specific crops during non-growing seasons to cover and protect the soil. These crops enhance soil structure, prevent erosion, suppress weeds, and provide organic matter when incorporated into the soil. Leguminous cover crops also contribute nitrogen fixation, enriching soil fertility naturally. Cover cropping is a sustainable method that improves soil health and biodiversity.


Mulching entails covering the soil surface with organic materials like straw, leaves, or wood chips. Mulch conserves soil moisture, moderates temperature fluctuations, suppresses weeds, and prevents soil erosion. As the mulch breaks down, it contributes organic matter, enriching the soil's structure and fertility. Mulching is an effective and easy way to maintain soil health.


Composting transforms organic waste into nutrient-rich compost. Incorporating compost into the soil enhances its structure, moisture retention, and fertility. Compost also introduces beneficial microorganisms that aid in nutrient cycling and disease suppression. Composting not only reduces waste but also revitalizes soil, making it an essential component of sustainable gardening.

Water Conservation Techniques

Implementing water-efficient practices such as drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, and utilizing drought-resistant plants minimizes water use and reduces soil erosion. Conserving water in landscapes maintains soil moisture, supports plant growth, and sustains overall soil health. Water conservation techniques are vital for responsible gardening in arid and water-scarce regions.

If you have any questions feel free to get in touch with the Alluvial Soil Lab team at (831) 216-1367 or at

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