Gardening Guide #19: Soil Testing

Gardening Guide #19: Soil Testing

hi I'm Willie and welcome back to how the acres for another series from another section from our organic gardening series today we're going to talk about soil testing and one of the easiest ways for the home gardener to get a soil test and get some quick results that they can take action is to buy one of these inexpensive kits that they sell at the local hardware stores they usually only cost about three or four dollars and they're readily available at most places that sell seeds and fertilizer and things like that so what I've done today is I've already started a test and we're going to take a look at that but first let's take a few minutes to talk about how to collect a soil test and what I have here is actually a professional probe for collecting soil samples and it takes a core it's designed as really heavy-duty and out of stainless steel so it won't affect the results of your test but and the main reason I'm showing you this is so you know what the goal is as far as collecting your test and then we'll talk about how you can do it at home so what you would do is drill this down into a depth of maybe four to six inches because that's the area where your plants roots are going to be most concentrated and that's the part of the soil that you need to focus on the nutrient levels for so whatever area you have in your garden is the bed you want to take a multiple number of samples and dump them into a plain white plastic bucket something like this that's clean and not contaminated with any chemicals and you take several cores around the garden mix them together and then take a composite sample from that in order to do your test and that gives you a better idea of what you have in the whole area as opposed to what you have in a single section of your garden now most people aren't going to have or won't want to spend the money on buying one of these core tools so what you can do is use a garden trowel and now I happen to have one that's fairly narrow it's used for like planting bulbs and small things but you can use a wider trowel as well and what you're going to do is just dig down in and try to pull out a representative sample the same thing and again take several around your bed dig them up and mix them together into a bucket and then mix those all together to get a nice uniform sample and then based on the directions that come with our test kit we'll take out a sample and mix it with water or whatever directions you have with that particular kit this one here says to mix one part of soil with five parts of water and I've already done that here in this container it's a great way to recycle your barley Max and juice juice max containers I put those in there shook them up left it covered for the required period of time and then what you do is you take out each of these little vials there's one for pH there's another for nitrogen another for phosphorous and another for potassium and you need to keep the colored capsules coordinated with the cap so you know what's what test is being run in each tube now the pH test has slightly different instructions then you have for the other three tests the nitrogen phosphorus and potassium you take the three tubes you fill them to the line as designated with the solution that you've made of soil and water so you're only pouring the water in there and you have to let it settle so that the the heavy parts fall to the bottom before you pour that liquid off then you add the contents of the appropriate colored capsule put the lid on shake it up and then you let it sit for another 10 minutes so that the color can develop and what you're going to do is take these three and you're going to compare them to the color chart that comes with the kit and based on the approximation of the color that's in your tube and the colors that are in the range on the chart you can tell whether your nitrogen phosphorous or potassium are high medium or low and then you can add supplements accordingly to make an adjustment and based on what it looks like here in our soils we've added a lot of organic material but it looks like we're still really low our phosphorus we probably have a little bit more potassium or potash and it looks like we do have some nitrogen in there so the main supplement I probably want to add for this particular test is to increase the level of phosphorous now the directions for the pH test are slightly different in there you take a sample of your soil and you fill it in this particular kit just to the bottom line and then what you're going to do is add the contents of the green capsule because the pH test and this kid is green and now I'm going to try to do this without spilling in you just twist the capsule and open it up knock the contents down into the container and then we're going to use distilled water if at all possible because distilled water is not going to have any mineral or chemical contamination to it and put the cap on and we'll shake it vigorously and we'll just give it about a minute that's according to the directions to let the color develop and again we'll come back and we'll compare it with this chart and see if we can tell by the color whether it's yellow or green what the pH in our sample is okay so here we've got it's been about a minute and or we can see that our solution is showing some green color so it looks like we are in on the alkaline side of neutral of course you know it tells you right here 7 is neutral and so once you're starting to get a green color you're not in the acidic range anymore you're in the alkaline range and that's probably okay for some plants we need to just check and make sure that we don't get too high in the alkaline range because most plants the need a little bit of acid in the soil in order to have nutrients readily available to them so we probably won't need to add more lime to this soil but we may need to add some other things more organic material and other things that might be acidic thanks for joining us for this section of the Hallelujah Acres gardening series

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6 thoughts on “Gardening Guide #19: Soil Testing

  1. This is WRONG basic 101 discard the top portune of plug down to depth you want to test, clean all debris, or screen the sample, and make sure the sample is dry. Use distilled water thruout testing, or buy a lab grade test kit is the better option, next to a proper agricultural lab test.

  2. Do you recommend shaking the 3 NPK container after 10 mins delay? If I don't shake, I'm low, if I shake them I increase about 1 value.

  3. Good job on explaining how to use the test kit most people don't read the directions and waste there money and time.

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