As a new or seasoned gardener, it’s important to recognize soil testing as one of the most basic, yet most important steps in gardening. The soil ecosystem is a tripartite relationship between soil, soil organisms and plants. Any number of possible interactions between these three make soil one of the most complex of habitats. Simply put, soil is a valuable living, dynamic resource which is part of a complex food web.
Lawns, trees, vegetables and flowers all require an adequate amount of nutrients to thrive and be productive. Soil testing will determine the actual nutrient status of the soil. As well as the amount and type of nutrients that should be added, to ensure the best growth of our lawn and gardens. This one step can save gardeners from overspending on unneeded lime and fertilizers.
The UGA Cooperative Extension Soil Test Report provides current levels of pH, Phosphorous (P), Potassium(K), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Zinc (Zn). Plus personalized recommendations to amend the soil based on the selected plant type. Multiple tests may be recommended for different plants in different areas of the landscape, or for new planting areas as well as established ones. Several samples should be taken from within each area, combined and air dried overnight. After drying, transfer the sample to the soil test bag and deliver to your local extension office. Complete instructions are included with each soil test kit or visit the UGA website, Publication 896.
If pre-planning an area for sod, trees, vegetables, or ornamentals, it is important to do a soil test as early as possible. Depending on the results, some amendments, such as lime, could take several weeks or months to affect the soil. Also, if existing plants are showing signs of distress the soil test results provide the extension staff a base line of accurate information to help with prognosis and suggestions.
If we understand our soil, we’ll have a better understanding of what will work best in our environment. Successful gardens start with healthy soil. So remember, don’t guess, soil test!
Soil test kits are available at Cobb County Extension, 678 South Cobb Dr, Ste. 200, Marietta, GA 30060, 770-528-4070. The fee for a Basic Soil Test is $9.00. Processing takes approximately 14 days before you receive the test results by email.