Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Home soil testing

Moving into our new territory for digging, we've noticed the soil is much richer. So we bought a home soil test kit with fantasies that maybe our previous professionally performed test was conservative in its results (this is even in spite of the fact that 2 of our 6 inch spinach plants are already bolting).

Our little vials of soil, water and testing powders are color coordinated: green for measuring pH, purple for Nitrogen, blue for Potassium and red for Phosphorous. The test takes $5 of your savings, a half a cup of your soil and 25 minutes of your time (5 minutes of active time). That said, it is really worth every home gardener performing a test on their soil. Land deficient in nutrients grows vegetables, fruit and flowers deficient in size, shape, color and beauty.

However, soil testing is a science. Relying on one result could lead you down an ill-advised path. For example, our test showed neutral-ish pH (neutral is 7.0; with this test it's measured against a color scale that is not exact). Our sourced-out soil test performed in a laboratory revealed a pH of 4.95. So the home gardener would benefit from performing multiple tests (which would only increase your time, not necessarily what you spend: the $5 test kit comes with 4 pH tests and 2 each of the macronutrients). And once you've got results, you can call your county's agricultural extension office (of Cornell University in New York State's case)- the two I've dealt with have staff waiting on hand to give free, friendly advice on how to improve your soil.

So... we've set our fantasies aside and accepted the fact that our soil needs some sweetening this year. And now back to double digging.

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