The USDA web soil survey
is a resource for determining soil type for a specific location. It could also be a good place to start if you are looking to purchase or rent farmland. However, if you do not know much about soil terminology, the results can be hard to interpret. In that case, call your county NRCS office and make an appointment with them to discuss your soil. They can also print out topographical and soil maps for you, as well as explaining your soil. Check out these sites for NRCS information for Nevada and Placer counties: Nevada County NRCS
and Placer County NRCS
Once you have obtained this information, you will have a better idea of soil quality and potential uses. The next step is to have your soil tested. Determining your soil type, pH, and chemical characteristics of your soil can help guide your amendment needs as well as crop choices. To find out more about having your soil analyzed, download our publication on Soil Analysis (PDF). Based on your soil type, its chemical characteristics and nutrient content, it will then be necessary to come up with a soil management plan that is specific to the crops you will grow and the soil types you are dealing with.
A critical part of managing foothill soils is the use of organic matter. Whether or not you are using or plan to use organic practices, in order to maintain your foothill soil, you must use practices that replenish organic matter. For more information on practices for managing soil health including crop rotation, cover cropping, and conservation tillage, see this publication on soil management and soil quality for organic crops
(PDF). For additional information on organic soil amendments including decisions of what and how much to apply, see Organic Amendments
Cover cropping can be a beneficial part of your soil management program and is an integral part of organic soil management. For information on appropriate cover crop choices for our area, see our information sheet on Cover Crops for the Foothills (PDF).