Soil testing for gardens and landscapes | TheFencePost.com

Soil testing for gardens and landscapes

David Lott
Horticulture Extension Educator

It is easy to not think about what we cannot immediately see with our own eyes. Testing soil in the garden and the landscape can help answer a number of questions why gardens thrive or struggle each growing season. Now is the time to consider soil testing to prepare the garden and the landscape for the growing season.

Properly taken soil tests can help gardeners understand the nutrient levels in the garden, and which nutrients need to be amended for the plant material and garden crops that have or will be planted in the future.

The major nutrients that impact plant growth and development; nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, will be recorded on the basic soil test results. Once gardeners receive this information, they can make informed decisions on how much nutrients need to be applied for the growing season, depending on the plants in the landscape or the garden.

Another item that needs to be tested for gardens and landscapes in western Nebraska is the soil pH. Soil pH indicates how acidic or alkaline the soil is. In most cases, landscape and garden soil pH here is alkaline, often high enough to not allow plant roots to absorb iron, copper, and other micronutrients that are present in the soil.

Left untreated, many landscape and garden plants in alkaline soils will not properly develop, exhibit diminished quality, and many times die from the nutrient deficiencies. Plant pH preference widely ranges, prompting gardeners to select plant material that can adapt to the pH levels in this part of Nebraska, or make the needed soil amendments to allow plants to grow to their full potential.

Here are some simple tips that help gardeners take soil test samples, and learn how to receive assistance on recommendations for individual garden and landscape situations.

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– First, find a clean bucket to collect the soil that will be used for the sample that will be tested.

– Second, select the area that needs to be tested. This can be a specific area of a garden, a flower bed, or section of the lawn, or an area around tree and shrub plantings.

– Third, find a clean spade with all foreign matter removed from the blade to collect samples. Soil test