The Web Soil Survey, through the Natural Resource Conservation Service is one of my favorite tools. This tool allows you to determine your surveyed soil type. The reports not only gives you the soil type, but the soil profile, annual precipitation, annual air temperature, frost free period, drainage class, slope, elevation and classifications.
I pulled a report for both the old house and the new house, so that I could compare what I know to what I need to learn. To pull a report first click the green WSS button on the top of the home page. This will take you to a mapping tool. Locate "address" on the left side bar and enter the address for the location that you want to map. Once the map locates the address you will use the AOI tool on the tool bar at the top of the page. This tool allows you to select the property you are interested in for further analysis. Once you have selected the area of interest (AOI) click on the soil map tab at the top of the page. A box will appear on the left with your surveyed soil type. Click on the highlighted link for an in depth report.
My old location was sandy loam, and the new location is loamy sand becoming sand lower in the profile. Now, here's the kicker - the old location was somewhat excessively drained and required amendment for water retention. The new property is excessively drained. Observation is the gardeners best tool. I had noted this drainage issue right away. Both properties had similar annual rainfall, however the weather patterns are extremely different. We moved from the Pacific Northwest, which has a long rainy season, to the Midwest, which has a shorter rainy season and much of the rainfall comes in the form of snow. So, my first task is soil amendment for water retention.
Composting is probably the best skill that I ever learned as a gardener. We started composting from day 1 in this house. (our last move, a few miles, I actually made my husband "pack" and move the compost).
These few quick facts about the soil will help you determine your soil amendment as well as your plant selection.
Here are a few links to older posts, you may also use the LABELS index on the left side bar to locate posts on the topics:
Compost & Soil Building
Lasagna Gardening 101
Soil Building: Urban Amends
Vermicomposting - Worm Bin Habitat - Understanding Your Worms
Vermicomposting: Collecting Worm Food