Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Soil testing
If you really want to get down and dirty, get a soil test.
Well, as soon as the soil is warm and dry enough to grab samples! It is one of the best thing you can do for your plants and yourself. The University of Minnesota , the University of Wisconsin and NDSU will give you a comprehensive report on what your soil consists of.
Here’s an example of the form from the U of MN:
The regular test is $15 to $17 and includes a report on levels for phosphorus, potassium, pH – lime requirement, total organic matter, and the texture of your soil. That means you can find out if your soil is clay, sand or loam.
Check your local county extensions and various other horticulture schools.
The why and how to of soil sampling from the University of Wisconsin.
Before you start digging for samples, make sure you’re soil is dried out sufficiently. You can test it by taking a handful of soil, squeeze it in your hand. If it stays in a tight ball, it’s too wet; if it crumbles apart, unlikely right now, it’s too dry; if it stays in a loose ball, it’s just right!
This is also a rudimentary test to see if you have clay, sand or loam. Only this time you dampen the soil deliberately. Not too wet, just damp. If the soil ribbons up when squeezed in your hand, it’s clay. If it crumbles, it’s sand. If it stays in a loose ball then it’s loam.
For a little more, you can find out other information as well. The University will give advice on what to do to enhance your soil’s condition. The turnaround time is 7 to 10 business days. This is well worth the money in the long run.
You can have several areas tested including your lawn, your perennial gardens and veggie garden as well. You’ll be asked to take several samples from the areas you want tested. For example, if you want to know what your vegetable garden soil is like, you’ll dig down about 2 to 6 inches taking 5 samples from various spots in that area, mix them together and then place a pint of that sample in a sealable baggie. Be sure to clearly label each sample. You’ll do the same for each area you want tested.
Keep in mind, you’ll pay for each garden area you want tested.