Soil Health

Healthy soil is more productive, has better drainage, holds on to nutrients, resists erosion, and has better water holding capacity.  What does it take to have a healthy soil?  Good levels of organic matter support populations of microbes and this combination improves and stabilizes soil structure.

Erosion prevention is crucial to soil health. Scientists estimate that it takes 100 years for one inch of topsoil to form. Learn how to keep your soil on your farm in the Erosion Prevention section. The Improving Soil Health section describes ways to get the most out of your soil, including the use of cover crops.

Soils vary in texture, drainage, susceptibility to erosion, water holding capacity, and other traits.  These characteristics and how they affect the potential of a soil are described in the soil survey for each county.  Free, printed copies are available at the East Multnomah SWCD office, but we recommend you use the online version at  This site allows you create a soil map of your property and gives you access to loads of information about your soils.

A good soil test is essential to understanding the chemistry of your soil. A basic test will give you the levels of nutrients present, and the acid level or pH. Many soils in Multnomah County are somewhat acidic and may need additives like lime to increase the pH level. See the nutrient management section of this website for more information.