All About Landscape Journal Digital

How To Examine Your Garden's Soil

Jul 12

pH And Soil Quality Checks

A good soil is the foundation for gardening success. Plant health is influenced by it just as much as—and sometimes even more so than—water and sunshine. The best approach to determine your soil's pH and state of health is to have a soil test. Discover three DIY soil tests in addition to further information on how to acquire a soil test.

Why Get A Soil Test?

For plants to get nutrients, your soil must be capable of doing so. Your plants won't grow well if you don't do this. Your plants can absorb the essential nutrients from the soil if the pH (degree of acidity) of the soil is the proper one. Iron and phosphorus may become less accessible if your pH is too high, and plants may become poisonous if your pH is too low. Growing a flourishing garden is really challenging without good soil.

The fact that we won't need to fertilize the soil as much is another reason we test the soil. Healthy soil is a good place to start, so less "fixing" will be required. The first thing you have to do is get a sample of the soil for analysis before you start putting on the lime and fertilizers.

What Can Be Measured By A Soil Test?

The fundamental texture of your soil—sand, silt, or clay—and its acidity—the pH level—will be assessed by a proper soil test, which will also indicate its basicity. Magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium will be among the nutrients whose accessible quantities will be estimated, and suggestions will be offered for increasing each nutrient's levels to those necessary for the best plant development. You can make the appropriate changes if you have this information. Therefore, let the soil test be your guide. Too much of a good thing may be just as destructive as not enough.

When Was The Last Time You Tested The Soil?

Testing the pH and nutrient condition of your soil every three to five years is advised for maximum plant development. The autumn is the best time of year to collect soil samples, however you may do it at any time of the year. You may then collect your findings and make any necessary corrections in time for spring.

A Soil Test Location

Gardening centers provide home test kits, but they are not as reliable or complete as soil testing carried out by a certified specialist at your local county extension office. A county extension soil test is often free or inexpensive, which is wonderful news.




Making A Soil Test

  • Scrape off any surface debris, plant remains, leaves, etc. in order to get a representative sample.
  • A place where ashes have been dumped, manure or compost has been kept, or brush has been burnt should not be used for sampling.
  • To create a V-shaped hole, use a shovel or trowel to make a straight cut into the dirt six to eight inches deep.
  • Slice a stretch of dirt that is 1 inch broad, starting on one side and going through the hole. Select a 1-inch strip from the middle of this slice for your sample.

  • Repeat collecting samples haphazardly all around the garden, then combine them in a clear glass container or bucket. We cut a piece from each raised bed and combine them all since we utilize raised beds.
  • Once the soil has dried inside for a few days, measure out a cupful, place it in a plastic bag with your contact information on it, and seal.
  • Wait for your findings after sending it in with the necessary paperwork and payment.

Looking At Test Results

Three particular nutrients—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—will be included in the fertilizer recommendations you get after you receive the results of your tests.

  1. Nitrogen, abbreviated N, is a plant fertilizer that aids in the development of leaves. The amount of manure or compost to use for nitrogen will be specified by them. Spread new manure, if you're using it, in the autumn so it may decompose over the winter and be ready for planting in the spring. Alfalfa, soybean, cottonseed, or dried blood meals may be used instead if you'd like. The optimum time to apply nitrogen to your soil is in the spring since it releases fast from them. The nitrogen content of 10 pounds of blood meal is equivalent to 10–20 bushels of manure, but it does not have the additional advantages of the manure's organic matter.
  2. P stands for phosphorous, which is essential for fruit, blooms, and vigorous root development. It aids plant growth, stem strength, and disease resistance. It also aids mineral absorption. Sodium, magnesium, and trace minerals are all present in rock phosphate. The soil may be greatly improved by adding rock powder. They only need to be used every three to four years since they are long-lasting yet slow-acting. Greater accessibility to phosphorus may be seen in bone meal and bone char.
  3. K denotes potassium, also known as potash. Flowering, fruiting, and disease resistance depend on it because it controls the water movement in plant cells. Weak stems and stunted development are symptoms of potassium deficiency in plants. Use glauconite, an ocean mineral that is rich in potassium and iron, to make greensand or granite dust to add more potassium to your diet. Also rich in potash are wood ashes.

DIY Soil Examinations

Here are three easy DIY soil tests that can help you understand more about your soil's health. They examine the texture, pH, and health of your soil.

The Test For The Texture Of Peanut Butter In Soil

Check your soil to see what sort it is! Clay, silt, and sand make up the majority of healthy soil, making about 20% of it on average. An whole day should be needed to do this, starting with the setup. A ruler should be nearby, and you should find an empty jar with straight sides, such as a mason or peanut butter jar. The area you wish to test should be dug up to root level, or approximately 6 inches, and the dirt removed should fill the jar between one-third and half full. Then, add water until the jar is shoulder-deep, and leave it aside so the soil has time to absorb it. For approximately three minutes, shake the jar vigorously with the lid on.

  1. Look at your watch as you put the jar down. Decide how much sediment has accumulated at the bottom after one minute and measure it with the ruler. What makes up your soil is sand.
  2. Take another four minutes. Once again gauging the sediment: The quantity of silt in your soil may be determined by comparing the two values' difference.
  3. In a 24-hour period, take a third measurement. You can determine how much clay is in your soil by comparing the second and third numbers.

The percentages of sand, silt, and clay should all equal 100 percent after calculation. 20% clay, 40% silt, and 40% sand will make up a lovely, loamy soil. You may choose what to grow using the following easy test: You should expect good drainage if your soil contains a lot of sand. Plants that like "wet feet" would thrive here since silt and clay are difficult to wet yet remain moist. Making appropriate plant selections and/or soil amendments

  • Add peat moss, sawdust, or old manure with more nitrogen if your soil is sandy. You may also amend the soil by adding heavy, clay-rich dirt.
  • If your soil is silty, mix well-rotted horse manure with fresh straw, coarse sand (not beach sand), gravel, and compost into the soil.
  • Add coarse sand—not beach sand—compost, peat moss, and other soil amendments if your soil is clay.

The Pantry Soil pH Test: Soil Acidity Or Alkalinity

  1. In a basin, combine 12 cup vinegar with 2 teaspoons of soil. Alkaline soil is present if the mixture fizzes.
  2. Using distilled water, wet 2 teaspoons of soil in a basin. Add 1/2 cup baking soda. You have acidic soil if the mixture bubbles.
  • The soil has a neutral pH if it responds indifferently to either test.
  • Toxic or nutrient-deficient plants may occur from very high or extremely low soil pH.
  • The pH scale ranges from 5.5 to 7, which is neutral; this range is also where microbial activity is at its peak and where plant roots may best access and absorb nutrients.

The pH of your soil may be altered or modified after you have determined it. Applying finely crushed limestone will neutralize acidic (sour) soil, whereas ground sulfur will treat alkaline (sweet) soil

Earthworm Test For Soil Quality

In the spring, when the soil has risen to a temperature of 50°F and is damp on top, is the ideal time to look for earthworms. 1 cubic foot of earth may be removed with a shovel. Check for earthworms by putting the dirt on a piece of cardboard and tearing it up.

There should be at least ten earthworms present in a healthy soil. More organic material should be added, such as compost, aged manure, or leaf mold, if your soil contains less than 10 worms. Structure is enhanced, nutrients are released gradually, and the activity of helpful microorganisms is increased by organic matter.

Use these do-it-yourself tests to assess the general health of your soil, but get a legitimate soil test as mentioned above for more detailed results!