Time to dig in and get serious about improving the vegetable garden and lawn this year. I spent the morning gathering dirt for professional soil testing. As you may know, nearly every state's agriculture extension service offers residents this service for a nominal fee. I started by picking up instructions and soil collection boxes from my local extension office.
The instructions called for 18 to 20 separate core samples for each test area, at a depth of around 6 inches. I targeted the vegetable garden and the backyard lawn. Not being able to find a special device for gathering core samples from a local store, I used a spade and trowel. I never was able to master digging at a perfect 45-degree angle as illustrated with the instructions. However, I did manage to sink the spade to the 6-inch depth for most of the garden samples. For the lawn, I barely managed samples around 2-5 inches in depth.
I tried a sort of zigzag pattern of gathering lawn samples, while I dug garden holes randomly up and down the sloped terrace of the garden. Samples included places where I'd built up the soil for gardening last year, as well as an extended section I hope to include this season. I dug into far more compacted, clay soil than I'd like to claim, and it clearly needs lots of good soil building enhancements.
I used a separate, clean plastic pail for each sample area, placing the small scoops of earth inside and finally mixing the earth together. Because it's been rainy on and off this weekend, I'll cover the pails with screens and air them on the porch until the dirt is dry. Later I'll place a small amount of the mixed dirt into the two sample boxes and mail them to the lab.
The instructions note that fall is a "desirable" time to test soils in part because it's the ideal time to add lime and minerals in advance of spring planting. My husband has already been adding lime to the lawn, but we want to know in more detail what it lacks. Since we've never tested the soil, at least our spring test will be a starting point for understanding what the lawn and garden need. The experts at Rodale
suggest not only testing for mineral content, but checking for unwanted contaminants before starting a new garden. Can't wait to get back the results and see what we can improve within organic growing guidelines.
Labels: garden, green, home, natural, organic, sustainable