Fall is a great time to test your garden soil

Esther E. McGinnis

“Don’t call it dirt! Dirt is what haunts you into the house. Soil is the proper name of the material that anchors and holds water and nutrients for plants, ”my soil professor insisted during my studies.

The floor has finally earned our respect and a real name. We have come a long way since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s realizing how precious and incredibly complex earth is. We still have a lot to learn, however. Pinterest gardeners regularly consider it trendy to “improve” their soil by adding lots of organic material, fertilizers or dubious additives such as Epsom salt.

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 foundation you need before adding any fertilizer, fertilizer, or any other component.

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.

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.

A lawn and garden soil test provides information on organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, soil pH and soluble salt content as well as individual recommendations.

This information 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.

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 research laboratory recommends avoiding phosphorus-rich supplements like manure, 10-10-10 fertilizers, and compost.

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

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.

If you have any questions about taking a soil sample, please contact your local NDSU Extension representative.

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 lawn or another area. A vegetable garden receives very different recommendations than a perennial flower garden.

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

NDSU soil test laboratory: https://www.ndsu.edu/snrs/services/soil_testing_lab/

Agvise: https://www.agvise.com/c

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