Soil Testing – Why it Matters

Soil testing is the process of measuring and analyzing the presence of important nutrients in the soil. It’s the ket to understanding its current health and fertility level. Basically, a soil test can provide homeowners the information they need to start a fertilization schedule. With periodic soil testing, homeowners can use fertilizer more effectively to help create a healthy garden or lawn.

The Importance Of Soil Testing

As the seed or fruit, fallen leaves, and other plant debris decomposes, the nutrients that a plant needs in order to grow get released back into the soil. When flowers or vegetables are harvested, these nutrients leave the soil and therefore need to be replaced. One way to do that is by fertilizing. However, fertilizing  without knowing the needs of your soil, can actually cause more harm  than good. When you fertilize too little, the plants will not benefit sufficiently. Likewise, too much fertilizing can cause damage to the environment. This is why soil testing becomes essential – you already know what your garden needs.

When To Do A Soil Test

The most ideal time to do a soil test is during the fall season. Most gardeners wait until spring before they start testing their soil. When you send your soil sample at fall, you can get the results faster. As long as the ground is not frozen, even wintertime is a good time to begin this process.

You want to get the results in time so you can make purchases on things such as fertilizer, lime or other matter. If the soil’s pH levels are too low, you can use lime to correct its alkaline level and prepare it for spring planting. Bear in mind that lime takes some time to react with the soil. For this reason, you can always opt to send a sample of the soil test to the testing center at any time and day of the year.

What You Should Test For

It’s important to decide what you should test for in order to achieve the desired results. Here are some basic soil tests that you can do:

pH Test – Determines the soil’s level of alkalinity to acidity. The best level is a pH of 7.

Organic Matter Content Test – Expressed in a percentage, garden soils usually have approximately 4 to 8 percent of organic matter content. Organic matter is essential in providing a place for soil organisms to perform functions such as breaking down the fertilizer and making the fertilizer available to plants.

Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) Test – This type of test helps determine the availability level of potassium, magnesium, calcium and nitrogen which is in the form of ammonium. It also helps in determining what should be added to change pH if the issue is non-calcium related.

Nutrients Test – This test reveals the availability of every nutrient. One type of nutrient that is emphasized in most laboratories is nitrogen which is the most common limiting nutrient for gardeners and farmers.

Others – At times, laboratories will conduct a test for local conditions such as sodium test which is common among areas that are prone to flooding by salt water. Northern locations can also benefit from this type of test when they become affected by driveway and road salts.

Getting a soil test done is like getting a roadmap for your garden. After all, you and your garden do go on an annual journey together. So taking this extra step and pay big dividends by the year’s end!