July 2, 2009

Better Late Than Never

Getting ready to send off a soil sample to be tested.My garden post motivated me to get a soil test kit from the county cooperative extension office. Having a soil test has been on my "to do" list and it seemed silly to put it off any longer.

To perform a soil test, samples are taken from a dozen or so places in the area to be tested. All are supposed to be six to eight inches below the surface of the ground. These are mixed together in a clean plastic container and then placed in the little paper bag provided by the cooperative extension office. I can return it either to their office or a designated local feed store.

In my state, the test costs $6, and the results will be mailed to my home. They will include pH, buffer pH, amount of lime needed, and measurable amounts of phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese, copper, sodium, and boron. It also measures CEC or cation exchange capacity, but I don't have a clue as to what that is.

The one good thing about doing this so late in the growing season is that almost everyone else's testing is already done, so I shouldn't have too long a wait for the results.


Theresa said...

Good for you! We have talked about a garden every year, but until we put up deer fencing and soil test ourselves, it would be a wasted effort. I'll have to check and see what Oregon offers for testing. We do have plenty of aged horse manure though! :-)

Woolly Bits said...

stupid question maybe, but why do you have to mix the different samples together? you'll get an overall idea, but if you have acid soil in one spot and alkaline in another and it gets mixed up, you'll end up with a neutral result, even though the soil in specific areas might be anything but neutral? when we did our own testing (simplified of course), we took different samples to test them and some were quite different to other areas!

Renee Nefe said...

I've never done a soil test, but I suspect that there is something a bit off because I cannot grow edible cuccumbers in my garden...they are ALWAYS too bitter.
I hope your test provides you with great results (you have great soil) and your veggies are coming up soon.

Renee Nefe said...

any tips for keeping the robins from eating all my strawberries & cherries?
I have at least one robin who is quite sure that my garden was planted just for him...I have netting and that doesn't seem to work.

Sharon said...

I'll mention that to Ian. It's so alkaline here, I think I know what the results would be. What's the key to protecting fruit from birds. We're at that stage right now.

One of the gopher snakes got some of the netting around herself and couldn't move. Ian ended up lifting her up with the lawn rake while I cut her free with grass clippers. It was really traumatic and I felt terrible that a little piece of netting that we had carelessly left outside the garden was nearly her undoing.

Leigh said...

Theresa, you should be able to find soil testing through your state cooperative extension program courtesy of one of the state universities. Just google it. The idea of putting up deer fencing seems a big task, but I suspect I'll need to do it eventually too.

Bettina, I've had the exact same question! I admit that I cheated and only took soil from three spots for the exact reasons you mention.

Renee, do get a soil test. They are available for even the smallest of gardens. Very useful information. But about that robin, if the netting doesn't work, it would seem that you have three options:

1 - get an outside cat
2 - train Lilly to go after that bird!
3 - plant enough strawberries for you and the robin too.

Sharon, thank for sharing that story about the netting. I've never used it, but have seen it on fruit trees. I suppose it's just a fact of life that the critters will help themselves to our gardens.