If you’re going to start a garden one of the most important things to consider is the structure of the soil. Not all plant life will grow in all soil conditions and therefore before you waste your seeds, it is best to know what type of soil you are dealing with and how you can go about improving it so that it can properly nourish the plants you wish to grow.
In order to achieve high quality plant growth the soil has to have decent pH levels. PH levels are measured on a scale of 1 to 14 with 7 being neutral. Soil that is rated below a 7 is acidic (also known as sour), whereas soil rated higher than a 7 is alkaline (also known as sweet). These numbers are needed to determine how well the plant will draw nutrients from the soil.
By taking a soil test you can easily find out if your soil is neutral, acidic, or alkaline and make the proper adjustments according to the types of plants you wish to grow. In any case, most plants can withstand the neutral soil conditions with a rating of anywhere from 5.2 to 7.2. If your soil is too acidic or alkaline you will need to add either lime or sulfur.
You can easily find a soil testing kit by visiting a home improvement store. The kits will provide you with an instant analysis of the type of soil you have, its pH levels, and the nutrient levels. If you don’t want to test it yourself you can also check local laboratories that can test the soil for you. Results will not happen instantly and take a few weeks to return. However, some new gardeners prefer going to a lab because they also receive advice on how to amend the soil to better conditions.
Steps to Home Testing Your Soil
If you’ve purchased a home soil testing kit you will see that it includes some vials and tablets for you to test the soil. There are charts available to help you interpret the results with ease. Be sure to carefully follow all the instructions on the kit for the best results. All you need to do is stick the meter probe into the soil and review the chart for your results.
Steps to Lab Testing Your Soil
If you are going to send your soil samples off for analysis by a laboratory you are going to need to have a garden trowel, a clean bucket, and a clean plastic container. Next you will need to sterilize and thoroughly clean the tools you will be using to collect the sample. Then in the area you intend to plant in, dig up five holes that measure about six to eight inches deep. Remove a ½ inch slice along the side of a hole and put it into the bucket repeating this process for all five of the holes. Mix all the soil into a bucket and then spread it onto a newspaper to fully dry out. Collect a least a pint for a significant sample.