Soil and Compost forum: Soil testing

Views: 206, Replies: 11 » Jump to the end
Name: Doug
Moreland Hills Ohio (Zone 6a)
PAP2012
Jun 14, 2016 5:19 PM CST
I want to test my soil in a new garden bed I am reviving but not sure I I should do a home kit style test or take samples and send it out some where? I know UMass at Amherst did sample testing but not sure if they do anymore. Any thoughts or suggestions?
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 15, 2016 8:43 AM CST
I guess it would depend on how far you want to go into reviving your soil. I used Logan Labs for a comprehensive analysis but I had already planned on remineralizing my soil. If you want a simpler test for just the basics, you could use a university extension facility.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Jun 24, 2016 5:35 PM CST
I agree with:
>> you could use a university extension facility.

I think some of them have reasonable prices. I have a link to co=op / ag extension services in my signature block:

~~ Coop Extension Finder
https://nifa.usda.gov/partners-and-extension-map?state=All&t...

I bought one of those soil-test kits but haven't used it yet. Eyeballing a color change didn't seem likely to give me accurate or reliable results.

I also want to "blend" the soil in most of my tiny raised beds before testing each separately. try to get similar soil in each bed, test once, then amend them all similarly.

Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 25, 2016 6:49 AM CST
Rick - I always wondered how accurate the soil test kits were. I think I tried one once (can't remember the brand) and the colors in the test tubes were so muddy (ha ha) that I couldn't quite match them to the kit charts. If you find a kit that's somewhat accurate, please let us know.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Jun 27, 2016 10:51 AM CST
I trust those "pH sticks" that have 2-4 small squares of color. Each square changes color at a different pH, and I think they are accurate to something like +/- 0.2 pH units.

And you remove the little plastic "stick" from the liquid before reading it. If I mixed soil with distilled water and then read the pH with one of those "sticks", I would pretty much believe it.

Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 27, 2016 12:11 PM CST
Rick - is there a specific brand of test kit that you prefer?
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Jun 27, 2016 3:41 PM CST
Nope. Even the semi-pro nursery-supplies-wholesale place I go to only had the "colored capsule" style of kit.

My rules for fertilizing are:

1. My beds always need more compost, lots more compost.
2. I may add a LITTLE chemical fertilizer a few times per year, the first year or two, while I'm still amending a bed.
3. After that, I'll probably add only compost until I see some heavy feeder with too many yellowing lower leaves, or "looking poorly".
4. Hopefully, the frequent rain we get will wash any any excess nutrients.

4. "Some day" I may average out the soil in my little beds by swapping soil and tilling. THEN I might take a collective sample and have it tested. Until then, the soil in each bed was amended as a separate batch, so each bed is probably very different. But, since the soil has LOTS of clay, I expect it to be a "nutrient magnet" with more ability to hold mineral io ns than loamy or sandy soil. Clay is a good holding buffer for plant nutrients (mineral ions).
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 27, 2016 4:30 PM CST
I don't make enough compost to amend my beds but I am trying to continually top-dress with shredded leaves. I don't do much digging as a rule but I did dig in some nutrient amendments back in the spring. My main bed for growing a few veggies, perennials and shrubs did test at 7.1 before amending so not too far off center although I did want to lower it a bit to release the calcium and magnesium from my clayey soil.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Jun 27, 2016 6:26 PM CST
>> I don't make enough compost to amend my beds but I am trying to continually top-dress with shredded leaves.

Mulch is just a slow form of sheet-composting! The organic matter in your leaves will wind up in your soil, and deep in your soil, eventually. Worms and eluviation carry small particles and dissolved material downwards.

Also, top-dressing with "browns" doesn't cause nitrogen deficiency in soil or root zones. If you had turned the same amount of chopped leaves under and mixed them well, bacteria would make your root zone a "Nitrogen-free zone" until they finished digesting all the excess C in the leaves.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 28, 2016 7:21 AM CST
You and I are on the same page about digging in browns.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Jun 28, 2016 11:49 AM CST
Once I bought the cheapest ""soil conditioner"" that HD would put in a bag. Mostly wood chips. I thoguht they would last longer in the soil than most things.

They did last for almost two years: as a huge mass of ugly fungus that nothing would grow on top of.

Then I read about "Nitrogen deficit". Never again. Wood chips are for top-dress mulch!

Although I knew someone, I think in Cubits, who made usable soil from clay, gravel, wood chips and some N source like manure. He said it worked for him from the first year forward. (My guess is: more manure than wood chips, and maybe the chips were large.)

Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 28, 2016 6:07 PM CST
Sounds feasible and would make for an interesting experiment. I guess it would depend on what type of manure as well.

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Soil and Compost forum
You must first create a username and login before you can reply to this thread.

Today's site banner is by dirtdorphins and is called "Lilium 'Pink Perfection'"