When it comes to growing and maintaining a healthy garden, soil tests are often overlooked. These tests measure soil health and fertility, are generally inexpensive, and well worth the effort when it comes to creating a productive garden space. What does a soil test show? How often should you do it?

What Does Testing Soil Show?

A soil test can determine the health of your soil. By measuring both the pH level and nutrient deficiencies, a soil test can provide the information necessary for keeping the most optimal fertility each year. Most plants, including grasses, flowers, and vegetables, grow well in slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Azaleas, gardenias and blueberries prefer a bit higher acidity in order to reach their growth potential. Having a soil test can make it easier to determine the current acidity, allowing you to pinpoint the deficiencies and correct them.

How Often Should I Test?

Soil samples can be done any time of the year, fall being preferable. They are normally taken each year or simply as needed. While many companies or gardening centers offer soil testing kits, you can usually obtain a soil test for free or low cost through your local county extension office. Try not to have the soil tested whenever the soil is wet or when it’s been recently fertilized.

What Do I Need for the Sample?

To take a sample for testing garden soil, use a trowel to take small slices of soil from various areas of the garden. Allow it to air dry at room temperature and then place it into a clean plastic container or seal-able plastic baggie. Label the soil area and date for testing. Now that you know the importance of getting a soil test, you can better manage your garden plants by making the appropriate adjustments from your soil test results.

Plants for the Garden

Now that your soil is tested, its time to look for new additions for your garden. Browse our hydrangeas, which has blooms that can change colors depending on your soil pH level. Or check out our more tolerant butterfly bushes to add winged friends to your garden. Azaleas are another shrub for acidic soil levels. Or our camellias for lovely late fall and winter blooms.

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