When you move into a different house the only way you are going to know what you have for soil under the grass is to do some exploring, digging. A series of test holes will tell the truth. Start digging and keep going until you find the clay layer. During this process, you will have a chance to evaluate the quality of the top soil layer. I would stay away from under the established trees, to avoid root damage. This exploring will give you another powerful tool in the understanding of your garden life, how quickly water moves through your soil.

Let’s say you have existing test holes made for soil analysis. These same holes, now filled back in, can work equally well for water testing. Don’t be afraid to take a shovel-sized plug out of the grass. Just keep it in one piece, inspect your soil and pop it back into place, give it a stomp and you are good to go. It will not die. You are only going to need to do this inspection a few times, and once the knowledge has been gained, the process will not have to be repeated.

As poor as some soils are, most have the essential elements, nutrients that plants need. If you have a sulking tree and know that it is not a water problem, you may need additional fertilizing, but it’s best to do a simple soil analysis first. Too much fertilizer can affect how ground water is tied up and also push trees to growth rates beyond what they are safely designed for.