Testing your garden soil

Soil Test 

I always am good about amending my soil whether it is grabbing a bag of spent coffee beans from Starbucks whenever I notice them there, few handfuls of alfalfa pellets at the beginning of spring, or compost when it becomes ready in my bin.  the thing I neglected to do was actually test my soil to see how I am doing.

The process to do this is actually pretty simple.  You first start by getting a sample of your soil.  If you have a very large garden it is a good idea to take multiple samples and mix them together for a single combined sample.  What I decided to do was prepare my soil as if I was going to plant some seeds (turn up the soil with a claw, smooth it out, etc) then I took a sample about 6-7 inches deep and placed it in an old container than I am pretty sure held baby spinach.

Bucket of dirt

Next comes the fun sciencey stuff, for the pH test you fill one of the cylinders to the first line with soil, add contents of one of the “green” capsules and fill to the fourth line with filtered/distilled water and shake vigorously.

Soil test vial

For N/K/Potash tests the process is somewhat similar where you take one part soil to 4 parts water.  For this I grabbed an old juice container from the recycling bin.  Added the appropriately measured parts and shook for a good couple minutes, which was much more of a workout as the tiny vial…  I then let the soil settle and came back 10 minutes later to see perlite floating on the surface and the water still a bit cloudy…think it was the coffee ground…

Soil test materials

I then took a tea strainer, which I am pretty confident I have never used for straining tea, and poured some of the slightly cloudy water into a clean container to remove the perilite.  I then filled each of the files to the appropriate (4th) line and added the color coded capsules to each of the vials.  After 10 minutes of waiting I had my results…

Soil Test Results

So here is what I discovered:

  • pH: Pretty much perfect, basically neutral maybe a bit on the acidic side but good range for most all vegetables
  • Nitrogen: Though this shows a little color it started out a bit on the brown side so really this was almost no change so appears even with my amendments I am still very low on nitrogen.
  • Phosphorus: Basically off the charts no need to add an more here…
  • Potash: This one looks decent, probably could amend some here but really something I am worried about.

So for me this quick $4 soil test brought me some great information and will plant to give my garden some additional nitrogen boosts throughout the season.


3 Responses to “Testing your garden soil”

  1. $6 For Testing Your Garden Soil? - Plant Care Today Says:

    […] The Cheap Vegetable Gardener […]

  2. Nelson Says:

    It is indeed very necessary to know the existing pH and the availability of essential plant nutrients in the soil. Having too much or too little of these nutrients or limestone can be harmful to plant growth.

  3. Steve Says:

    This spring I too finally decided to take some soil samples and send them out to a lab to get tested. You can get quite a bit of information about the levels of various nutrients, for not a bad price. It only costs about 20 bucks.

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