An important step gardeners should take in the spring before planting their flowers and vegetables is to have their soil tested for nutrient amounts and pH. Testing for nutrients determines the amount of fertilizer needed and testing for pH determines whether lime is needed.
Soil test kits can be purchased from your local Penn State Cooperative Extension county office (for $9) and larger garden centers. The county extension kits provide instructions on how to collect your soil samples. Then you mail the sample to Penn State’s Agricultural Analytical Services Lab for analysis.
Here is a short YouTube video done by Robert Berghage (Penn State Associate Professor of Horticulture) which shows you how to properly collect a soil sample.
In this second video, Robert Berghage shows how your soil sample is actually tested at the lab and talks briefly about the results you will receive in the report.
You should have the soil test results in about two weeks, so now is the time to do this. The results will include levels of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, along with pH. You will also receive fertilizer and lime recommendations. Be sure to read all labels and apply no more than the recommended amount. Overapplying chemicals can not only harm the soil and plants but can pollute groundwater and streams.
The Agricultural Analytical Services Lab also offers other types of testing (including plant analysis, water testing, compost testing, etc.) if you are interested.
Information in this blog was taken from this article, “Gardeners Should Test Soil Before They Plant.”
Until Next Time,