Several weeks ago I collected soil samples from my garden and trekked down to my local county extension office. The sweet lady filled out my testing forms and said I’d receive a letter in the mail in about 2 weeks.
The mail came on time and I squealed when I saw University of Arkansas Agricultural Department at the top of my post. I ripped open the envelope like a kid at Christmas. I perused the papers and that excited Christmas feeling left.
Here’s my letter:
What in the world did all of this mean? I get gardening is a science, but did I really need to know all of this to grow a garden? Turns out I don’t, but if I want a prolific garden then I do.
I sat the paper down and processed it a few days. Picked it back up and thought it would make more sense the second time around. No such luck. Realizing I can not do this alone, I swiped my phone and dialed my county extension office.
After a few minutes on the phone with a different agriculture expert professional, he explained it all to me in lay man’s terms.
Reading your soil test results is easier than you think.
First off I knew the main the nutrients of nitrogen, phosphate, calcium, etc and I knew the basic of the Ph scale to determine acidity and alkalinity. I might not remember much from High School biology and chemistry, but I remembered 7 is neutral. I’ll admit I had to look up the rest because my memory is just not that great. If you’re like me a simple explanation is best and Science Buddies explained it perfectly. Anything higher than 7 is alkaline anything lower than 7 is an acid.
My soil properties came in at 5.1 which is acidic. This much I know. Now for the part I didn’t know. My county extension office told me that because my soil is acidic I need to neutralize it. Most plants do well in soil that measures 6.5 on the ph scale. Amending my soil is the only way to gain a more neutral soil. My soil test suggested adding lime. Lime is a natural element. So I am comfortable using it. I try to be organic as possible, which simply means I do not use chemicals on my garden.
When I asked what lime does, this is what the agriculture professional told me. (These are my words not his). According to the soil test, my soil has plenty of nutrients, but my plants can’t use them because the ph in the soil isn’t neutral. He basically said that lime helps neutralize the soil, converting the nutrients into a usable form my plants can absorb and use for growth.
I learned lime can take several months to break down so my goal is to get that onto my garden as soon as possible. My test also advises that I use fertilizer as close to planting as possible. So my other course of action is to get all the chicken poo tilled into the garden right before I plant. The extension office said if my plants grow and suddenly stop (which they did last year), then I need to top dress with more fertilizer.
Thank goodness for soil testing, chicken poop and the county extension office for helping me have a more sustainable garden!
Have you had your soil tested? How will you amend it this year to grow healthy plants?