by Todd Lorenz, MU Extension Field Specialist in Agronomy
Review these top ten reasons to get a soil test in your garden:
• Maximize the productivity of your garden. Soil tests identify yield-robbing deficiencies and provide recommendations for fertilizer and amendments.
• Reward your hard work with hard science. Fertilizer recommendations that are provided with soil test reports are based on sound research, which maximizes results from fertilizer use.
• Learn a little — or maybe a lot. Soil test recommendations come with information that will teach and inform about best management practices for your yard and garden.
• Save by applying only the amount of fertilizer that is needed. A soil test will determine the amount of nutrients that your soil will supply, so unnecessary fertilizer applications can be avoided.
• Be healthy. Well fertilized fruits and vegetables result in more nutritious food. Nutrient deficient soil yields produce that is lower in nutrients and protein.
• Protect the environment. Applying fertilizer according to soil test recommendations prevents excessive fertilizer applications. Fertilizer applied in excess of plant need increases the likelihood that it will run off into lakes, ponds, streams and rivers.
• Conserve. Don’t apply fertilizer when it isn’t needed. Fertilizers are made from our natural resources (natural gas and nutrient-bearing rocks). Unnecessary applications of fertilizer needlessly use those resources.
• Inventory your soil resource. Knowing the nutrient levels in your soil can help you plan future garden or yard management and needs.
• Color your lawn/flower bed/shrubs. A properly fertilized soil will result in a deep green color in your lawn. Properly fertilized flowers and shrubs will maintain a healthy appearance. Some shrubs will flower only if the soil is maintained with appropriate fertility.
• Detect what is wrong with your plants. A soil test can help solve the riddle of what could be ailing your plant(s) or lawn.
When is the best time for a soil test?
Soil samples can be taken in the spring or fall for established sites. For new sites, soil samples can be taken any time when the soil is workable. Most people conduct their soil tests in the spring. Fall is a preferred time to take soil tests if one suspects a soil pH problem and wants to avoid the spring rush. Fall soil testing will allow you ample time to apply lime to raise the soil pH. Sulfur should be applied in the spring if the soil pH needs to be lowered.
Want to learn more about testing your garden soil? Go to MU Extension’s Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory website to learn more: