With the garden asleep for the winter, many gardeners anticipate new plants in the coming months. But what about the garden soil? Is the soil pH acidic or basic, adequately fertile and with appropriate levels of essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, manganese, copper and zinc? A soil test will answer these questions and help in deciding on plant choices, soil preparation and fertilization.
Soil test kits can be picked up at the county Cooperative Extension office. Using a clean stainless steel or chrome plated trowel, dig about 6 inches deep in 4 to 5 spots in the testing area. After collecting equal amounts in each spot, place the dry soil in a clean bowl or bucket. Be sure to combine well, fill the soil test box to the fill line and label. Take separate samples for different areas, such as lawn, blueberries, vegetables or flowerbeds. Complete the soil test form, place on top of soil test boxes in a cardboard box, and mail to the address listed on the form. It is helpful to keep a ‘cheatsheet’ at home to remind you where each sample came from.
After the lab has tested the soil samples, you will receive a test report with recommendations for fertilizer and pH amendment. During the winter it takes about 2 months to receive your test results and there is a charge of $4 per test kit box.
Knowing your garden’s soil type, pH, and base fertility will allow you to garden more knowledgably with better results. Now you have a reason to get back out in the garden this winter.
For more information: http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/a-gardeners-guide-to-soil-testing.pdf
Article written by Lorraine, Cipriano, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.