Homeowners are encouraged to test their soils ... Homeowners are encouraged to test their soils for nutrient needs, and to apply only what nutrients are needed for a healthy lawn. Farmers practice the same testing procedure. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How well did your plants grow for you last year?

A soil test might be needed if you noticed last years’ growth was weak, off-color (red summer leaves on blueberries, yellow leaves on bamboo, etc), or you are planting in a new soil area.

You have two choices: At-home testing or lab testing

If you are using a soil test kit at home, use distilled water to mix with your soil sample, or you will be testing the water from your tap. A home soil test kit can give you an idea of the pH (acidity or alkalinity) of your soil, as well as the approximate amount of available nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

You can also collect soil samples and send them off to a lab for a more professional test and supplement recommendations based on the crops you tell them you intend to grow. Ask your local cooperative extension office for soil test lab recommendations.

It is important that the pH of the soil is within the preferred range for the plant you are growing. Plant roots can not do their job of absorbing nutrients properly if the pH is wrong, even if there are plenty of those nutrients in the soil.

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