Before you start a garden, you should always test your soil. It’s a fundamental step toward determining what sort of fertilizers you will need. Soil tests also indirectly help the environment. A lot of soil contains too much phosphorus, but people pour more phosphorus-based fertilizer on it anyway. This phosphorus ends up getting carried off by rain and eventually polluting rivers, streams and lakes.
Why Should I Test My Soil?
Soil testing has the potential to provide you with useful information on how you can enhance the productivity of your lawn and garden. The goal is to determine your soil’s exact composition so that you can better calculate your particular plants’ precise needs. This in turn leads to a better garden and thus tastier fruits and vegetables.
Here are some additional reasons to engage in soil testing:
- To take advantage of whatever nutrients are already in your soil.
- To determine what nutrients are lacking in your soil.
- To figure out which type of fertilizer would be best for your soil.
- To adjust your soil’s pH levels to their optimal levels.
When Should I Test My Soil?
The most opportune time to test your soil is either in the fall right after a harvest or before spring fertilization. Whatever you do, don’t test the soil if it’s extremely wet. Also avoid testing the soil after you run fertilizer through it. Ideally, you should test your soil once every 2 to 3 years.
What Do I Need To Test My Soil?
All you need to perform an accurate soil test is a soil testing kit. You can usually obtain such kits from your local county offices, as well as nearby soil laboratories. Worse case scenario, just buy one from any gardening or home-improvement store.
Keep in mind that it’s important you take multiple samples from different areas in your garden. Basically, any unique area (unique because of the types of trees present or the types of plants being grown there) will need its own test.
What Tips Can You Provide Me?
Soil testing isn’t just a simple case of stuffing some soil into a container. It must be done correctly. The following are tips to keep in mind:
- Use a thoroughly clean trowel, space or soil probe to collect samples. Make sure you use different ones for each area you test. If nothing else, at least clean your tool off before collecting another sample.
- Make certain you completely fill the sample container with soil.
- Properly label the sample container with identifying information, including your name and address. Don’t forget to include something to mark the sample — “garden sample, “lawn sample,” etc.
- Mail the sample to the appropriate laboratory with any required documentation and/or fee payments.
- Pay attention to and follow any advice and tips the laboratory sends back to you after the testing is complete.
What Type Of Info Will The Test Identify?
According to our Oklahoma City Home Inspector A soil test will identify the following information:
pH Levels: This will help you determine whether your soil is acidic or alkaline. Lower numbers suggest acidic soil, while higher numbers point to alkaline soil.
Phosphorus/Potassium Levels: Both of these are essential nutrients for plants. That being said, too much can be harmful.
Calcium Levels: A lot of people underestimate the need for enough calcium. Without calcium, plants won’t grow as well as they could.
Organic Matter Levels: This basically measures the ‘richness’ of your soil. A higher rating means a more organic, better-performing garden.
Micronutrient Levels: This one is tricky, because some micronutrients are needed in small doses, but can quickly become toxic in higher doses.