Top 5 Soil Testing Tips for the DIY Home Gardener

by Editor on August 29, 2013

Soil Testing

Is your soil ripe for growing your favorite plant, flower or herbs? Before you start growing anything in your garden, it is important to first conduct a soil test Рjust to make sure the soil is suitable for gardening. Some soil can be too dry to grow most plants and some soil can be too acidic. Oftentimes, it can be hard to tell if soil is suitable or not for planting just by looking at it. Most of the time, you have to get into the soil and test some of its basic properties. A particular batch of soil might look unhealthy, but in fact that might not be the case. Here are the top five soil testing tips for the DIY home gardener.

  1. Always time your soil testing. Timing is everything when it comes to soil testing – mostly because it takes a while for plants and flowers to bloom and for herbs and vegetables to become harvestable. Typically you want to test the soil about three months before you plan on planting anything. This will give enough time to know if you need to make any adjustments or need to add anything to the soil to make it more sustainable for plant life.
  2. Try not to test the soil right after a treatment, because your results will be far from accurate. For instance, if you have just fertilized your lawn, you want to wait at least a month before you test the soil. The same goes if you have added any other soil additions, like artificial manure or lime. In order to get the best reading, you want the soil to be completely untouched by any processing. You won’t know what the true pH balance of the soil is if it has been treated.
  3. Test every year. It is important to test your soil samples every year. Sometimes the acidity or the silt level of soil can change according to different trends in the atmosphere or environment. Moreover, it is important to test every single year at the same time, so that you get not only the most accurate reading, but also the most consistent. Also, you will be able to draw a line between different changes in the soil and you won’t have miscellaneous seasonal changes that can get in the way of your reading.
  4. Do not test when the soil has just been watered or after there has been a rainstorm. Soil testing is all about testing the soil when it is in its driest, most natural state. This doesn’t mean you have to test it only when it is bone dry, you just don’t want the soil to be soaking wet or too muddy. When it comes to gardening, you never want to plant seeds in mud.
  5. Take samples from multiple locations. Typically, when you test soil, you want to test the entire soil bed. This way you can get the most accurate response. One section of the soil bed might be healthy, but the other might not. So, be sure to be diligent about taking multiple samples.
photo by: MdAgDept

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