How to Test Your Garden Soil
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A soil test can determine your soil’s current fertility and health. A soil test can provide the information needed to maintain the most optimal fertility year after year by measuring both the pH level and pinpointing nutrient deficiencies. The majority of plants, including grasses, flowers, and vegetables, thrive in slightly acidic soil (6.0 to 6.5). Others, such as azaleas, gardenias, and blueberries, require a slightly higher acidity to thrive. As a result, having a soil test can help you determine the current acidity and make the necessary adjustments. It will also allow you to correct any flaws that may exist.
1. The Squeeze Test
The composition of soil is one of its most fundamental characteristics. In general, soils can be categorised as clay, sandy, or loamy soils. Clay is nutrient-rich, but it drains slowly. Sand has a poor ability to retain moisture and nutrients and drains quickly. Loam is considered ideal soil because it retains moisture and nutrients while not becoming soggy.
Take a handful of moist (but not wet) soil from your garden and squeeze it firmly to determine your soil type. Then extend your hand. One of the following will occur:
It will keep its shape, but if you poke it lightly, it will crumble. You’re in luck because this means you have luxurious loam!
It retains its shape and sits obstinately in your hand when poked. This proves your soil is clay-based.
It will crumble as soon as you open your hand. This suggests that your soil is sandy.
You can work on improving your soil now that you know what type it is.
2. The Percolation Test
It is also critical to determine whether or not you have drainage issues. Some plants, such as certain culinary herbs, will die if their roots remain wet for an extended period of time. To check the drainage of your soil, do the following:
Make a six-inch-wide, one-foot-deep hole. Water should be poured into the hole halfway and left to drain completely. Fill it up with water once more. Watch the length of time it takes the water to drain. Poor drainage occurs when water takes more than four hours to drain.
3. The Worm Test
Worms are excellent indicators of your soil’s overall health, particularly in terms of biological activity. If you have earthworms, you probably have all of the beneficial microbes that contribute to healthy soil and strong plants. To perform the worm test, follow these steps:
Check that the soil has warmed to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit and that it is moist but not soaking wet. Make a hole that is one foot across and one foot deep. Spread the soil out on a tarp or a piece of cardboard. As you return the soil to the hole, sift through it with your hands, counting the earthworms as you go. If you find at least ten worms, your soil is in good condition. Less than that suggests that your soil may not have enough organic matter to support a healthy worm population, or that it is too acidic or alkaline.
4. pH Test
Your soil’s pH (acidity level) has a lot to do with how well your plants grow. pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14, with 0 being extremely acidic and 14 being extremely alkaline. Most plants do best in soil with a pH of six to seven. Plants will not grow as well as they should if the pH level is less than five or greater than eight.
Every home and garden store sells pH test kits. These kits are reasonably accurate, but you must carefully follow the testing instructions. Once you’ve determined whether your soil pH is a problem, you can start working to fix it.
If you’ve done all of these tests and amended the soil as needed to correct the problems, but your plants are still struggling, contact your local cooperative extension service. They will instruct you on how to collect a soil sample and send it to their lab for analysis. They will send you a report with recommendations for correcting any mineral deficiencies in your soil.
These tests are simple and inexpensive ways to ensure that your garden has the best possible foundation.