Recently, Winter has acting more like its February self. However, before Winter remembered how to act, I went out into the yard and walked around the garden beds. The sun was out and warm, I could not stay inside. I planned to get my soil tested later in the Spring, but decided to take advantage of the soil being thawed this time of year.
I had contacted my local Cooperative Extension office for a soil sample collection box and instructions. Out in the garden I took samples from four to six inches down in the ground.
The collection instructions say the total sample is about two cups, and it should be a mixture of eight to nine samples.
The soil was not frozen but was still wet, so I was careful when walking in the middle of the garden. I also needed to allow the soil to dry before I mailed it to the testing agency.
I boxed up the soil sample, filled out all the appropriate forms, and walked everything over to the post office. Within the next week I received the results of my test, and I was really surprised.
If you are familiar with soil elements or fertilizer you may notice that nitrogen (N) is missing. Soil tests do not measure nitrogen, because in the soil nitrogen in a gas, and the levels change quickly.
I was really surprised to read the strength of the soil nutrients. The test also reported the organic matter was 6%, which is very good.
pH was reported as 6.9, which is high or alkaline, typically for vegatables. There are several ways to lower pH. Adding sulfur is the most common and quickest way. Adding compost and/or composted manure will also lower the pH. Mixing in some peat moss will also lower the pH. Why is pH important? If the pH at either extreme plants have difficulty accessing the nutrients in the soil, so to help my plants maximize the great nutrients in my soil I should work on lowering the pH a bit.
So why is soil testing worth the cost, time, and effort? If you had asked me, to guess the results of my test, I would have said the soil was acidic, low in organic matter, and needed a lot of compost. If I had acted on those assumptions my soil pH and nutrients would have increased and my plants would likely have not done well, and to help them I would have added more nutrients and compost.
Soil tests provide a baseline so you know what you need and do not need. I encourage you to contact your local Cooperative Extension office and learn about how you can get your soil tested.
Have you had your soil tested? What were your expectations? Did your results surprise you? What are you biggest soil amendment needs?
Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.