Growing a beautiful garden starts with testing the soil. The best place to start is learning how to do a soil test. The soil test results will show you the type of fertilizer recommended for your plants to grow. Taking a soil test sample is simple. Use a clean trowel and bucket to gather a soil sample. Collect the four soil samples by digging 8-12 inches down in various locations within your garden. Mix and place a cup of the soil in a plastic bag or the one provided by the lab. There are soil testing kits online if you prefer to try a DIY method.
You can use a state-certified lab to test the garden soils. Complete and include the detail requested on the soil submission form. List the types of plants that will be grown in the sample area. Send the sample and form together to the soil testing lab. The lab uses this and test results to make the fertilization recommendations.
Allow several weeks for the soil test and the results to be returned. Most soil tests report the amount of phosphorus and potassium in the soil. Phosphorus promotes flowering, fruiting, and root development. Potassium promotes drought tolerance, disease resistance, and hardiness. Many soils are high to excessive in these plant nutrients. You cannot remove the excess, but you can avoid adding to the problem. The soil test report will help you assess when you need to fertilize.
Soil pH is measured in most soil tests. Acidic soils have a pH below neutral 7.0, while alkaline soils with a pH above 7.0. Soil pH influences which nutrients are in the soil and are available for the plants to absorb and utilize for growth. Blueberries, azaleas, and red maples are examples of acid-loving plants. Clematis, crabapples, and spires are a few of the alkaline tolerant plants. Always use the soil test results when trying to change the pH. Lime reduces acidic soil (increases the pH), while sulfur is added to lower pH,
Include soil testing when you plan a new garden or need to evaluate an area in your garden where plants are struggling. Understanding your soil health can help you create a strong foundation for your plants and improve the longevity of your garden.