Test For Chemical Imbalance In Your Soil
Soil test kits for measuring chemical imbalance, pH levels, and organic content are available commercially, but you can get a thorough and accurate report from the County Extension Service (CES) in your county. You'll find the address listed in the phone book under state or local government offices. You can purchase one of these CES soil test packets from your local County Extension Service for only a few dollars. The packet will probably consist of a plastic or cloth bag, a preaddressed envelope, and a questionnaire to fill out about your property. Take your soil sample properly so it will accurately represent the soil in your lawn and garden. Follow the directions that come with the packet.
A good soil test requires the following steps:
1. Take 1 tablespoon of soil from at least ten locations around your property. This provides a good representation of the overall soil on your land. A sample taken from just one spot may be unrepresentative, especially if it is from an area where you have fertilized often.
2. Do not sample from the surface of the soil. Remove a trowelful of soil and set it aside; then take the soil sample from inside that hole, at a depth of 4 to 6 inches.
3. Let the collected soil samples dry out enough so they can be easily mixed.
4. From this mixture take the final soil sample for mailing to the County Extension Service laboratories or to test with your home test kit.
The CES soil test report will tell you whether the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in your soil are low, medium, high, or excessive. Ornamental plants do best in soils where the nutrients are in balance at the medium to high levels. The soil analysis will also report your soil's pH level and may indicate the levels of critical minerals like calcium and magnesium. Finally, most reports will indicate the percentage of organic material found in your soil.
Most reports will then give you some recommendations to correct any problems that have been identified. Unfortunately, many of those forms give data in terms of acres requiring you to adjust the figures down to square feet. Remember, no matter what is recommend, the annual addition of organic matter over you entire property will achieve a long term balanced ecosystem more accurately than you having to add specific chemicals to the soil from time to time.