Sunday, February 6, 2011

How to test your soil...

Be certain you get a good soil sample. Take core samples from the surface to a depth of 6 inches (if you don't have a soil core sampler, cut a vertical slice into the soil with a spade or shovel, then take a uniform slice along the vertical cut from the surface to 6 inches). Take 12-20 cores (depending on the size of your area) from points scattered evenly through the field or garden you are sampling. 

Take separate samples for any portions of the field or garden that have distinctly different soil types or very different management histories. Make sure to keep your core samples separate for the differing areas.  Mix the soil from each of the samples thoroughly in separate, clean plastic buckets or stoneware crocks. Place a pint of soil in a sample bag provided by the testing lab, or in a zipper-seal plastic bag for each distinct area of your field or garden. Remember not to handle your soil sample with your bare hands, use rubber gloves.

Send the sample to a reputable soil testing lab - such as A&L Eastern Agricultural Laboratories in Richmond:

A&L Eastern Laboratories, Inc.
7621 Whitepine Road
Richmond, Virginia 23237

Phone: (804) 743-9401

Fax: (804) 271-6446
For a comprehensive list of soil testing centers for every state click HERE.

In addition to soil pH, organic matter and major nutrients (N, P, K, Mg, Ca) it can be helpful to test for essential micro nutrients, especially Boron (B) which is often deficient in Virginia soils. 

When you receive the test report, find a good organic supply dealer in your area and give them the following information: 
  1. A brief history of the field or garden sampled, 
  2. Your gardening plans and objectives,  
  3. Overall description of condition of the soil itself or of the vegetation (crops, weeds, native plants) growing in it
  4. Any other specific questions
Once you have your soil up to its best, then you can be sure your garden will be bountiful and beautiful. 

1 comment:

  1. I have to credit and thank Seven Springs Farm in Check, VA for the info about soil testing. They are also a perfect local choice for organic farm and garden supplies.