Soil Testing

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Last fall, Justin and I attended the WNC Garlic Fest (super fun!) and we picked up a soil testing kit on a whim. Despite our best intentions, the kit sat untouched until last week when Justin and I finally took some samples and got to testing.

The kit we got was pretty straightforward and easy to use. It came with clear instructions, supplies to perform the tests, and some good information about the soil conditions required by common vegetables. The only thing not included in the kit was distilled water.

 

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The pipette was included with the kit, the trowel and water we supplied.

 

For our tests, we took 4 samples. One from our current garden, one from the area to which we’d like to move the garden, one from our herb bed, and one from our front-most field (we’ll do another test from this field after pigs have grazed it).

We knocked out the pH tests first. This test was instantly gratifying. We put a little dirt into the test box, filled it with distilled water, and dumped the contents of the pH capsules in. I expected our samples to run fairly acidic because our clay soil is supporting some impressive pine and cypress trees which favor acidic conditions. I was surprised to notice that only 2 of the samples were very slightly acidic and one was even slightly alkaline. I’m pretty relieved that no major corrections will be needed in the pH department.

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The tests for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium required a bit more time. The kit called for dissolving 1 part soil sample into 5 parts water. We used some old pineapple jars with lids for this.

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Ideally, you wait anywhere between 20 minutes and 24 hours for sediment to settle out of your dirt-water and use that liquid to fill the test chambers. We waited more than 24 hours for 2 of the very orange clay samples to settle out, but they never did, so the accuracy of the potassium test (in which the liquid was supposed to turn orange) is in question.

The results for the phosphorus and potassium tests were encouraging, we seem to have plenty of those nutrients for growing veggies. However, the nitrogen levels were abysmally low. Our actual test results are below.

Sample (1/17/16) pH Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium
Proposed Garden 7 Depleted N0 Sufficient – Surplus P3 – P4 Sufficient K3
Garden 6.75 Deficient N1 Adequate P2 Surplus K4
Front Field 6.5 Depleted N0 Sufficient – Surplus P3 – P4 Adequate K2
Herb Bed 7.5 Depleted N0 Surplus P4 Adequate K2

If you have any questions regarding our soil or the test, let me know in the comments. Otherwise, I’ll be researching ways to boost our nitrogen levels for this summer’s growing season…

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