Tuesday, October 19

First Things First: Do a Soil Test 

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Are your plants getting the right diet to be the best they can be? Maybe it’s time for a soil test from your local extension office. You’ll end up with a wealth of knowledge about what fertilizers to use, how to amend your soil and whether your plants are getting the nutrients they need to be healthy and prolific. 

Here’s how it works:

Pick areas that you’d like to test, say for vegetable plantings, fruit trees, annuals or shrubs. 

Take a sample from the area by scraping off any mulch, grass or weeds, then digging your shovel straight down about four inches into the ground. Put the soil into a bucket. 

Repeat this vertical sample process four to six times in the same general area.  

Mix the samples in the bucket well, then remove approximately 1 cup of soil, placing it in a clean plastic bag. Label each bag with the type of plants you plan to grow. This is very important. 

Repeat in other planting areas, such as lawns, flower beds or vegetable gardens, keeping the samples separate. Different plants require different nutrients and soil acidity to flourish, so it’s important to know how to prepare your soil before you plant. 

Take your bagged samples to your local county extension office. The office has official brown-paper sample bags you can transfer your samples into to be sent to the university for testing. There’s a place for your name, address and the type of planting for the area. 

By testing your soil before you plant and amending it according to the recommendations, you’re setting the stage for long years of successful gardening. If the soil is right, you have a much better chance of getting your garden to grow. 

The tests typically cost less than $10. The samples are sent to the state university’s agriculture department for testing. Within two to three weeks, you’ll get back a detailed report that tells you the current condition of your soil and exactly what you need to do to amend it for your plants. 

For more information, contact your local extension office. 

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About Author

Pamela A. Keene is a freelance journalist who writes about travel, personality features, gardening and how-to topics. An avid photographer, she lives in Flowery Branch, Georgia, and has been published in magazines across the country.

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