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Washington State University

Soils, Cover Crops, & Compost


Soil Testing at Thurston Conservation District 

Thurston Conservation District provides various types of soil testing. This website provides information on pricing and test types.

Estimating Soil Texture by Hand (PDF)
This document contains three flowcharts to assist with estimating soil texture by hand. Available in Spanish and English. Washington State University. 

The Sponge Analogy for Soil Moisture
This video explains the role of soil pores in water movement and water holding capacity using a sponge as an analogy. Washington State University, 2010. 

Soil Management for Small Farms (PDF)
This publication covers soil and water; what affects the porosity of soil and its effects on irrigation; site and landscape factors; western Washington soils; soil organisms; nutrient management, fertilizers, and manures; adding organic matter; soil pH and liming. Washington State University, July 2000. 

Building Soils for Better Crops (PDF)
This publication provides step-by-step information on soil improving practices as well as in-depth background from what soil is to the importance of organic matter. Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education & USDA, 2021. 


Cover Crops

Managing Cover Crops Profitably (PDF)

This publication explores how and why cover crops work, and provides all the information needed to build cover crops into any farming operation. Along with detailed management information on the most commonly used species—including grasses, grains, brassicas and mustards, and legumes—Managing Cover Crops Profitably offers chapters on the role of cover crops in broader topics such as crop rotations, pests and conservation tillage. It also has appendices on seed suppliers and regional experts. Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education, 2007. 



The Art and Science of Composting (PDF)
This publication describes the composting process, general guidelines, methods as well as other relevant topics. University of Wisconsin-Madison, March 2002.

Backyard Composting (PDF)

Curious about compost? Composting reduces waste and provides an inexpensive treatment for home gardens and landscapes. Whether you have been composting for years or want to start your first pile, this publication is a how-to guide for backyard and small-scale composting. Washington State University, August 1994, Revised March 2017. 

Interpreting Compost Analyses (PDF)
This publication covers how to interpret compost analyses. Oregon State University, October 2018. 

Thurston County Master Recycler Composter Program 

The Master Recycler Composters of Thurston County is a county-based volunteer service program managed through the WSU Thurston County Extension office in Olympia. This program is sponsored by the Thurston County Public Works Department and the Master Gardener Foundation of Thurston County. Master Recycler Composter (MRC) volunteers are trained on how to reduce waste and increase public awareness of opportunities to prevent waste, recycle and compost in Thurston County.