Don't Flake On Soil Testing
July 9, 2019
A lot can depend on the fertility and growth of your plants, like sunlight exposure, water access, and most importantly, soil health. And whatever level of care you give to your plants and its’ surroundings, a soil test can prove to be essential in creating the perfect formula for your summer yard. Many would argue that soil tests should be a mandatory tool for home gardeners.
What is a soil test?
A soil test is an analysis of a soil sample from your yard to determine the pH level, potassium, phosphate, organic matter, nutrient levels and more. These bits of information can tell you about any deficiencies you might have that could be affecting the growth potential of a certain plant. For example, maybe the leaves are browning quicker than you anticipated, or maybe a plant didn’t grow as much as you thought. Whatever the case, a soil test is a good idea for any yard and is highly recommended to anyone trying to grow their own plants.
An important thing to note is that a soil test will not tell you any information about soil drainage, sunlight exposure, or insects.
How to take one
To get a proper sample test, it is best to mix soil from different parts of your gardening area together. Especially in a larger garden space, you want to get an accurate representation of the state of your soil from all parts of the area. To do this, dig down to about 6 inches in a few random, surrounding spots and simply mix them together. Try to take out as much debris, sticks, rocks, and insects as possible. Make sure to avoid areas around your fence or where you composted, if at all, as well. If you have both an area for your lawn and a vegetable garden, you’ll need separate tests for each.
Sending it in to a lab
The kits you purchase in a garden center do not provide adequate analysis for truly addressing your soil’s needs. Choose a lab that will provide you with comprehensive information about your soil testing, not just the lab results. It’s important you have the information you need to act on what you receive. Your local county extension can suggest labs that do soil analysis for what best suits your needs. Not all labs test for lead, for example. Once you contact the lab, they will send you very specific collection guidelines for how to collect and send the soil samples. In a few weeks, you will receive results that will help you make adjustments in fertilizers and other suitable amendments to get your summer yard back up and running again!