Have you had your soil tested? It’s important to know what your soil needs so your garden will have the best nutrients and produce the best harvest. You can take a soil sample to your local extension office for testing or do it at home with an easy to use soil test kit.
Depending on the test method you choose, results will reveal your soil’s pH, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, soluble salts, texture and more.
Most garden soils will test somewhere between 5 and 9 on the pH scale. For most garden plants the optimal range is between 6 – 6.5.
If your soil pH is too low, add ground lime or wood ash
If your soil pH is too high, add sulfur, peat moss or compost
Nitrogen (N) – Nitrogen is needed to produce proteins and amino acids. Aged manure, alfalfa meal, seaweed, fish, or blood meal will all increase nitrogen.
Phosphorus (P) – Phosphorus is important in cell division and development and promotes root growth. Bone meal or rock phosphate will increase Phosphorus.
Potassium (K) – Potassium is essential for protein synthesis, improves water absorption of plant roots and drought resistance. Wood ash, gypsum and kelp will all increase Potassium.
Soil Amendments: Amendments should be added in the spring, before planting or in the fall after harvesting:
• Compost – adds nutrients, lowers soil pH, improves drainage and moisture retention.
• Lime – raises soil pH, helps to loosen clay soil.
• Manure (well composted) – adds nitrogen and phosphorus, improves water retention.
• Peat Moss – improves moisture retention and drainage, lowers soil pH.
• Sand – improves drainage in clay soils.
• Tree Bark (Ground) – improves soil texture and drainage.
• Bat Guano – high in nitrogen and phosphorus, improves soil texture.
• Worm Castings – high in minerals, high in nitrates, adds beneficial bacteria and microbes, improves water retention and soil structure.
• Cover Crops – improves soil texture and fertility, chokes out weeds, adds nitrogen to soil.
• Leaf Mold (aged leaf mulch) – cools the soil when used as a mulch, adds beneficial minerals and microorganisms, improves soil texture.
• Wood Chips –improves soil texture, moisture retention and nutrient levels, chokes out weeds.
Ideally your soil should be comprised of 5% organic matter, 25% water, 25% air and 45% mineral matter.
Provide your soil with what it needs and improve your plant growth, disease resistance, drainage, and overall taste and harvest of your vegetable garden. Rotating your crops from year to year will reduce diseases and prevent depletion of soil nutrients. You’ve worked hard to grow healthy food for yourself and your family, paying attention to soil health will help your garden be the best that it can be.
Soil health is our number one priority here on the farm, as it should be. You really must start from the ground up to grow something great! The importance of soil health is immeasurable, helping increase yields and disease resistance. With regular soil testing, adding the needed soil amendments and practicing crop rotation you will help your garden be the best it can be!
It is amazing to think that we owe everything to the layer of soil we are currently standing on, (and of course the sun and the fact that it rains) don’t forget to take care of it.