Soil Testing

       Know your soil before deciding where and what to plant. Explore around your yard and choose the site where soil texture and drainage look best for gardening. Dig soil samples for testing, at the depth where plants are to be set. The most critical indicators to check are pH and fertility.

       pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity, which determines what nutrients in the soil are available to plants. Nutrients could be available, unavailable or in almost toxic overabundance, depending on the soil pH. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. A pH value below 7 means the soil is acidic, while above 7 alkaline. Each unit change in the pH scale is a 10-fold difference in acidity or alkalinity. For example, soil with a pH of 6 is ten times more alkaline than soil with a pH of 5. Alkaline soils have reduced nutrient availability. Most plants grow well in slightly acidic to almost neutral soils, with a pH between 6 and 7.5. Some plants, like blueberries, are adapted to acidic soils. Changing soil pH takes time, and maintaining the preferred pH for your garden means monitoring soil pH whenever new garden beds are prepared. You can adjust the pH level, or select plants that will thrive at the natural pH of your garden soil. Consider your garden soil type (sandy, loam or clay) when making amendments.

      Fertility is the ability of the soil to supply essential nutrients in available form for plants to grow, flower, fruit and maintain good health. Carbon, Oxygen, and Hydrogen are derived from water and carbon dioxide from air. The three major elements, for which soil is amended, found in commercial fertilizers, are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K). Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Sulfur (S), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), Boron (Bo) and Molybdenum (Mo) are needed trace elements. Soil pH affects the balance and availability of nutrients and beneficial organisms. Plants are adapted to different levels of soil fertility, and show healthy to abnormal growth, based on their growing conditions.