10 reasons to test your lawn or garden soil this fall

Whether earth, earth or earth, the material in which lawns, gardens and trees grow has a lot to do with whether plants thrive or languish. Soil is the preferred term, of course, because any soil scientist worth their sandy loam will be quick to remind you that “dirt” is something to sweep off the ground.

Esther McGinnis, a horticultural expert from North Dakota State University, reminds gardeners the importance of having our garden and garden soil tested. She says Pinterest gardeners routinely find it trendy to “upgrade” their soil by adding lots of organic matter, fertilizers, or dubious additives like Epsom salts.

“But does your garden soil really need all of these additives? This is like a chef adding salt to the soup without tasting it. You need a baseline before making any adjustments. Soil tests are the basis that you need before adding fertilizer, fertilizer or other components. “

Soil tests can reveal nutrient deficiencies or pH imbalances that cause pale, yellowish leaves. Michael Vosburg / Forum picture editor

Below are reasons why it is important to have soil tests done.

  1. Soil tests are best known for diagnosing nutrient deficiencies. If potassium levels are low, the soil testing lab recommends potential sources of potassium to help alleviate the deficiency.
  2. Less well known is the importance of identifying high nutrient levels. Just like with the salt content in soups, you can add excessive nutrients and additives if you’re not careful.
  3. A lawn and garden soil test provides information about the amount of organic matter in the soil, which is important to know if the soil would benefit from further addition.
  4. Soil tests measure the pH of the soil and determine its acidity or alkalinity. Soil pH greatly affects plant growth and may be responsible for why some species like Autumn Blaze Maple have problems in certain locations.
  5. High concentrations of soluble salts can be detected, with recommendations for remedial action.
  6. The information from a soil test can save you money and labor. For example, if your soil is high in organic matter, you can skip the tedious process of putting compost into the soil.
  7. Across the country, soil research laboratories are seeing more gardens with excessive levels of phosphorus, which can bind important micronutrients like iron. In the event of excessive phosphorus, a soil testing laboratory recommends avoiding phosphorus-rich supplements like manure, 10-10-10 fertilizers, and compost.
  8. Soil samples and analyzes provide you with chemical and physical information about your soil that can be used to optimize plant growth or to solve soil-related problems.
  9. Soil test results recorded over time also allow you to track changes in soil properties. This is useful to track remedial action or to determine if adverse trends are occurring.
  10. If your soil test shows acceptable levels for nutrients, pH, organic matter, and soluble salts, you know you are on the right track.

McGinnis explains that soil tests can be done any time of the year, but best before the soil freezes. An autumn test allows gardeners to plan their fertilizing strategy before spring planting.

After mixing soil from six places within the area to be tested, about a pint of soil is added to the test laboratory.  Michael Vosburg / Forum picture editor

After mixing soil from six places within the area to be tested, about a pint of soil is added to the test laboratory. Michael Vosburg / Forum picture editor

To get a representative soil sample, take soil from five or six places in the garden. Use a shovel or hand trowel to take a sample approximately six inches deep. Remove any leaves or organic matter from the top of the soil. Place these samples in a plastic bucket and stir thoroughly to create a composite sample. Take at least 1 pint of soil from this bucket and place it in a bag.

Before submitting the sample, make sure you provide background information such as: B. whether the soil sample comes from a vegetable garden, a flower garden, a meadow or another area. A vegetable garden receives very different recommendations than a perennial flower garden. For example, if you want to know the soil analysis of your lawn and vegetable garden, you should submit the samples for examination separately from each.

North Dakota has two soil test laboratories. For further information, please contact the following laboratories:

Don Kinzler, a Lifelong Gardener, is the North Dakota State University Extension gardener for Cass County. Readers can reach him at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu.

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