Soils are three-dimensional.  The vertical dimension is divided into layers that have similar properties.  The description of each horizon follows a specific pattern.  Many of the terms have quantitative definitions.  If you want to know the quantitative definitions, check out the on-line Soil Survey Manual at


This is the pattern that is used to describe horizons.  The color of the generic description matches the color of the actual description of the A horizon below.


Generic horizon description:


Master horizon followed by subordinate horizon designation, upper and lower boundary of horizon; dry color followed by Munsell color notation then texture class name; moist color followed by Munsell color notation; structure visibility, structure size class, structure shape; dry, moist and wet consistence; number and size of roots; number, size and kind of pores; number, size, visibility and color of special features; pH class and pH; transition clarity and topography of contact between this and lower horizon.


Actual A horizon description:


A1--0 to 3 inches; yellowish brown (10YR 5/4) loam; dark yellowish brown (10YR 4/4) moist; moderate medium subangular blocky structure; hard, friable, slightly sticky, and slightly plastic; common very fine roots; common very fine tubular pores; few fine distinct light brownish gray (10YR 6/2) iron depletions; slightly acid (pH 6.2); abrupt smooth boundary.