Friday, December 12, 2008

Know Your Soil

So, you have grand plans to start that garden in the Spring?
You're ready to gather those heirloom seeds and are raring to "get plantin'" ...but..hold on a minute... is your soil really "up to the task"?(sound of record screeching here)
...Say what?! you mean I can't just dump my seeds in a space and expect stellar results? "might" could do that, and have tremendous results...
that is if your soil has all of the proper nutrients
...but...that's getting really lucky.
So..let's back up here a minute and take this slow.
Soil PH...what is it?
Soil PH is the factor which determines whether or not plants are able to consume nutrients from the soil properly.If the PH balance is out of whack... either too high..too much of a goood thing in one area or another...or too low..not enough of the "good stuff" ...then the soil goes into "lock down" and your plants wind up "biting the dust baby"..meaning they literally starve to death.So..soil testings help you to determine if your soil has the proper balance of everything it needs to grow certain types of plants, vegetables, shrubs, grasses and so forth.
A good balance of nitrogen in your soil helps to promote good growth of stalks, leaves, stems, and grasses.Too much nitrogen equals soft tissue, too fast of growth,and all around plant weakness. It can also result in loss of flower and seed formation.Too little nitrogen results in susceptibility to pests, disease, and injury.
Phosphorous gives plants a rapid start and boosts the root formation and maturing, and aids in flower and seed formation.
Proper amounts of Potash/Potassium in the soil help to stimulate root and tuber formation.It is needful for underground crops.Too much potash in the soil reduces the plants resistance to drought and frost injury and slows down plant maturity rates.
Collecting Your Soil Sample:
Gather soil at a depth of 2-3 inches below the surface.
Use a clean tool.
Do NOT touch the soil with your hands.
Place in a clean container. Label the container so that you know from which area of your yard/garden it was taken from.Take samples from different areas of your yard: shady areas, sunny areas.Do not collect wet soil. You want to collect soil that is dry enough to walk upon.Remove debris(rocks and wood pieces)Crumble as finely as possible. You may have to put the soil into a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to accomplish this.When your soil sample has a fine texture it is then ready for testing.
Test your soil on your own with a "Do it yourself" kit..these kits list the proper ph balance for different types of plants.Or, you can submit the soil samples to a local garden nursery that offers this service(call around, as some nurseries do offer this service)Or, you can submit the soil sample to your local extension agent.Once you receive your results you will know where to go from the "do it yourself kits" will also have a chart letting you know what you need to add to the soil..and the results from the nursery or extension office will also tell you.
When your soil test is complete and you have created the proper PH soil balance needed(by adding lime or other items as per the instructions from your "do it yourself kit, or the extension office forms)....
you can then truly say"Gardener's Know The Best Dirt"..and smile while saying it.
~Happy Gardening!~
(Image courtesy of DK images free clip art)

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