How To Sample, Test and Analyze Soil

As a gardener, it is very important that you know what type of soil you have in your garden so that you can use the right type of fertilizers and conditioning methods to make your soil better for your plants. The proper pH level is needed to give your plants the right nutrients. You can have the soil tested professionally if you want. But you will have to pay for the soil to be analyzed. There are simple ways for you to take a sample, test and analyze the soil in your backyard for your gardening needs.

  • Collect soil samples in different areas of your yard or garden. Divide your area into different sections. Dig about six to eight inches deep and get about ten to fifteen soil samples in one section of the garden. Be sure to wear gloves so that you do not touch the soil. Remove plant parts, rocks, and other debris from the soil. Mix the soil samples you have take from one section and place them in a plastic bag. Air-dry wet soil first before placing it in a plastic bag. Label the section as well as the bag. Repeat for the different sections of your garden.
  • Buy a soil test kit from garden supply centers. The kit contains instructions on how to test the soil for alkalinity and acidity or the soil’s pH levels. You should also check the phosphorus, potash and nitrogen content of the soil. Potash or potassium is essential for good tuber growth so it is an essential mineral when you have a garden planted with root crops. Phosphorus is essential for the growth, rapid maturity and seed formation. It is also very essential in helping the plants and the flowers to bloom. Nitrogen helps the plants to grow luxuriantly. You need to maintain a neutral pH level which is between six and seven. If the pH level is zero, it means your soil is very acidic. If the level reaches fourteen then your soil is very alkaline.
  • Check the quality of your soil by some simple tests. Soil is classified as sand, clay or loam. Sandy soil will have very good draining characteristics but it will be difficult for sandy soil to retain nutrients. Clay is very thick and rich in nutrients but retains water too much as clay drains very slowly. Loam is the ideal soil for gardens. Loam retains nutrients and moisture but will not be very wet like clay. Grab a handful of moist soil and give it a tight squeeze. If it forms into a ball and crumbles when you poke it, you have loam. Clay on the other hand will form a ball but will retain its shape when poked and of course you know that it will be difficult for sand to retain its shape.
  • You can also check verify the soil by digging a shallow hole and filling it with water. Sandy soil will drain the fastest, followed by loam. Clay will take the longest time to drain. The presence of earthworms is a good indication of the quality of the soil. If there are several earthworms in a square of soil it means that the soil is rich in nutrients and have the right pH balance.

Soil testing should be done as soon as you move into your new place. Then it should be done every ten years. But this is not a norm that should be followed to the letter. Test your soil when your plants do not seem to grow and prosper, after checking for possible infestation by plants pests.


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