READY, SET, PLANT? - NOT QUITE YET!
SOIL FOR: Inground Gardens or Raised Beds
Now that you have been bitten by "gardening fever", you want to plant right now! You can start planting vegetables in pots or creating a raised bed and filling with ready-made soil. See Raised Beds and Container Gardening.
HOWEVER, eventually even in raised beds you will want to test your soil to discover if there are nutrients lacking that would maximum produce results.
Plants receive nutrients best through soil with a specific pH environment, and each crop has a different pH requirement.
If the pH is too high (alkaline) or too low (acidic) based on the nutritional requirements of the crop, the plant cannot absorb the nutrients for maximum results. Do you know if your garden soil is acidic (pH 5.5-6.00) or alkaline (pH 6.1-7.5)?
The Soil Sample Test result will give you the actual pH of your soil.
Continue reading below
How to Take a Soil Sample and Adjust Soil pH
Why do you need a soil sample? Even within a home garden different areas of soil contain different pH readings and other nutrients. Since soil is the medium to provide essential nutrients for plants and each crop requires specific nutrients, a soil sample will reveal a basic analysis including pH (which tells you if it is acidic or alkaline), identify minerals in your soil as well as specific phosphorous and potassium levels. Through the soil analysis you will be able to adjust the soil to benefit the crop you choose for that area and achieve maximum production.
A soil with a pH number between 5.0-6.0 is acid, while one with a pH above 6.0 is alkaline. See below for how raise or lower your pH.
Prepare to take Soil Sample
Gather the following:
Map of garden with soil testing areas clearly marked and identified
Official Soil Sample Bag with information completely filled out prior to using
Check with your County Extension Agent to obtain soil sample bags and forms. Soil samples cost around $10.00 each. For a more detailed soil analysis we prefer to use Waters Agricultural Laboratories, Inc. Click on "Submission Forms".
How to take a Soil Sample.
Mark the beds you are testing with a number or letter to identify a specific area.
On your garden plan or map, record the numbers/letters of each area that will be tested.
For each raised bed select three (3) or four (4) areas for testing then dig eight (8) inches deep from the top, collecting about 2 cups of soil.
Put all collected soil samples from a single raised bed in the bucket.
Thoroughly mix the collected soil with trowel.
Label a testing bag with the number or letter that corresponds with the raised bed or section of your garden.
Place appropriate amount of mixed soil in labeled testing bag.
Seal your soil sample.
Mail each soil sample in its testing bag along with submission forms and any required payment to your County Extension Agent or chosen agricultural lab.
After you receive your soil test
HOW TO RAISE SOIL pH with LIME to make soil alkaline ( 6.1-7.0))
If your Soil Test results show that your soil is too acidic for your crop, you will want to raise the pH of the soil with lime, creating a more alkaline soil. The amount of lime your soil needs to raise its pH depends on the results from your soil test for the crop you will plant.
We find it is easier to apply pelletized, not powdered, lime.
Prepare the bed by tilling soil or digging to a depth of 8 to 12 inches.
Broadcast the lime evenly over the soil.
Rake it into the top 3 inches of soil.