Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Soil Testing

With spring upon us, it might be time to talk a  little bit about soil testing, why you should test your soil, and how it can make a difference for your yard and garden.

Testing your soil can help to keep the guess work out of what nutrients you need to be supplying your dirt with.  Guessing as to what you should apply to your yard or garden can actually cause more damage than good in the long run.  This is due to the effect that anything you apply to your soil can and will affect the pH levels, which will in turn affect what plants will or will not thrive there.

When you are taking a sample of your soil to test, you will want to be sure to do it a few months before you are ready to start planting. Also, do not take the sample when the ground is extremely wet. However, if you are testing the soil of an already established area (such as a lawn) then you really only need to test your soil every 3 to 4 years to be sure that the pH is being maintained. This will help to keep your plants healthy if you take the proper steps to balance your soil's pH once you have your test results in.

When you collect your soil sample you will want to be sure that your equipment is clean, you will also want to avoid using anything that is copper or galvanized as it will cause your soil test report to come back incorrectly as it will cause it to read that your soil has more copper and/or zinc than it actually does.

The appropriate depth for your soil sample is very important as well.  For a lawn the depth of the sample taken should be in the neighborhood of 4 inches.  For vegetable and flower gardens, it should be between 4 and 6 inches. Then for shrubbery you are looking at a sample taken at a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

Also when taking your sample remember to avoid taking the sample in areas where you have already applied fertilizer and/or lime.

Once you receive your report back, you will be ready to take the steps you need in order to balance the pH in your soil. Depending on whether you need to lower or raise the pH in your soil will determine which steps you will take.

Depending on where you are located, what types of plants you are wanting to grow, determines what methods you will need to use in order to lower your soil pH. There are methods of using sulfur and/or aluminum sulfate to remedy a high pH.

If you need to raise your pH level in your soil, the most common method is to use lime. Some people also use wood ashes, again as with lowering the pH level, the methods and treatments to raise your your pH level are dependent upon what you are going to grow on your land and where you are located.

We hope that this helped answer a few questions that some of you may have had about soil testing.  For more information you may wish to visit your local agriculture office, as they will be more familiar with where you are located and what types of soil are in your area along with which treatments work best in your region.

Good luck with all your gardening this spring and summer and do not forget us when you need gardening equipment or canning supplies!

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