Testing your soil
The first and most important thing you can do for your garden is to start with a soil test. I test my soil with a at home kit every spring. Your soil nutrients can change from year to year. I prefer to just use an at home soil test but you can also get a soil sample and send it to a lab or your local extension agent.
To get an accurate soil test you will need to take 8-12 soil samples with a shovel digging from a range of one inch to twelve inches deep. Making sure each soil sample is in a different area of your garden. Dump these samples into a bucket and mix. Some helpful tips to remember when taking a soil sample.
- Follow the test lab or at home test kit instructions.
- Take samples before working the soil.
- Use a clean shovel or trowel and wear clean gloves so you do not contaminate the test results.
- Soil samples should not be to wet or to dry.
- When using the at home soil test use distilled water.
- Do not take any soil samples if you have fertilized, wait for about 2 weeks.
The results are in! What do you do with them now?
At home soil tests give the values of your soil nutrients for your pH, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium.
Low on N: Yellowish and light green foliage, stunted growth.
Sources for N: bonemeal, fish, chicken, and steer manure.
Low on P: Leaves look dark green or have a reddish purple tint to them.
Sources for P: rock phosphate, fish bone meal, chicken manure
Low on K: small fruits, older leave may wilt or look scorched on the tips.
Sources for K: seaweed, greensand, wood ashes
Low on Ca: Leaves on the top of the plant are distorted, also causes blossom rot.
Sources for Ca: oyster shells, gypsum, limestone
Low on Mg: Older leaves turn yellow on their edges, yield can be down.
Sources for Mg: Epsom salts, dolomite