The most suitable sites for restoration are those where soils are well-structured (i.e., not compacted), and fertility is moderate. Some soil characteristics, such as the soil profile, texture, and structure, can be explored through observation in the field. More detailed information about physical structure or nutrients requires laboratory analysis of soil samples or more complex field measurements. See the table below for key factors to consider and how you can collect the necessary information to inform potential restoration or creation of species-rich meadow on your land. For a deep dive into floodplain soils and how to understand them see Chapter 5 of our Technical Handbook. Or watch a short talk on soils of floodplain meadows with Professor David Gowing below the table.


Factor Ideal range for restoration/creation Data collection method
Soil fertility (available Phosphorus) 5-25 mg/l-1 P Soil sample & lab test for Olsen’s P.
Soil pH pH > 5.5 Soil sample & lab test for pH.
Soil texture and structure Good soil structure (not compacted).

Visual examination of soil profile through either existing exposed soil profiles (e.g., a collapsed riverbank), creating a soil pit, or using a soil auger. Indicators of compaction include horizontal cracking and few visible pores in the soil.

Investigate soil texture by hand using this key

Survey for plant species indicative of compaction.

See the soil compaction indicator species here.

Soil monitoring methods