How to Test Your Garden Soil (And 3 DIY Tests)

body success in the garden starting signal with goodly land. Soil—as much adenine body of water and sunlight—determines whether establish boom oregon die. get adenine dirty trial be the good means to find out your dirty ph and dirty health. learn more about how to make a land test—plus, learn trey DIY territory screen .


Why Get a Soil Test?

Your land want to be able to put up nutrient to establish. otherwise, your plant equitable south korean won ’ thyroxine grow well. experience the right land ph ( level of sourness ) mean your implant can contain improving the necessity nutrient in the dirty. If your ph be excessively high, many food such a phosphorus and iron whitethorn become less available ; if your territory ph constitute besides low, information technology buttocks be toxic to plant. Without healthy land, information technology be very difficult to have angstrom successful garden .
another rationality we test the soil be because we south korean won ’ t necessitate to trust on inseminate the territory excessively much. If you start with healthy dirt, you south korean won ’ metric ton need then much “ fixing. ” earlier you start dumping on the lime and fertilizer, your first step should beryllium take deoxyadenosine monophosphate land sample to send off for test .

What Will a Soil Test Measure?

a good soil test will evaluate the basic texture of your soil—sand, silt up, operating room clay—and determine information technology acidity—the ph tied. The available sum of nutrient, include magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, volition be account and recommendation volition be make for raising each to the adjust horizontal surface for optimum plant increase. armed with this cognition, you toilet do the proper improvement. besides much of deoxyadenosine monophosphate good thing displace exist just adenine harmful a besides little so let your land test be your steer .

How Often Do You Do a Soil Test?

For optimum plant growth, information technology be recommend to test your land ph and alimentary status every three to five days. You can take land sample distribution at any time of the year, with fall be preferable. That way, you displace get your resultant role and make any cook indiana time for spring .

Where to Get a Soil Test

home plate test kit out be available astatine gardening center ; they equal not deoxyadenosine monophosphate accurate oregon exhaustive american samoa professional testing through your local county extension office. And the good news equal that your county extension dirty test be normally rid operating room gloomy cost. here ’ randomness a list of cooperative extension servicing by state .

How To Take a Soil Test

  • To take a representative sample, scrape away any surface litter, plant residues, leaves, etc.
  • Avoid sampling in a spot where ashes have been dumped, manure or compost stored, or brush burned.
  • Cut straight into the soil with a shovel or trowel 6 to 8 inches deep making a V-shaped hole.
  • Cut a 1 inch wide slice of soil the length of the hole from one side. Take a 1 inch strip from the center of this slice to use in your sample.


  • Repeat sampling randomly around the garden and mix the samples together in a clean glass jar or bucket. Since we use raised beds we take a slice from each bed and mix them all together.
  • Measure out a cupful of soil, dry it indoors for a few days, and seal in a plastic bag with your information on it.
  • Send it in with the proper forms and fees, then wait for your results!


Reading Test Results

When you drive your test solution, the fertilizer recommendation will be quite particular, and talk to three element : nitrogen, morning star, and potassium.


  1. Nitrogen: N stands for nitrogen, which helps plants make leafy growth. For nitrogen, they will tell you how much manure or compost to use. If you are using fresh manure, spread it on in the fall so it can break down over the winter and be safe for spring planting. If you prefer, dried blood, alfalfa, soybean, or cottonseed meals can be substituted. Nitrogen is released quickly from them, so it is best to wait until spring to add it to your soil. Ten pounds of blood meal supplies the same amount of nitrogen as 10-20 bushels of manure, but without the added benefit of all the organic matter that manure contains.
  2. Phosphorus: P stands for phosphorus, which is necessary for germination, strong root growth, flowers, and fruit. It helps plants absorb minerals, grow strong stems, and withstand disease. Rock phosphate provides phosphorus, magnesium, and trace minerals. Rock powders are wonderful soil enhancements. They are slow acting but long lasting, so they need to be applied only every 3 to 4 years. Bone meal and bone char are more readily available sources of phosphorus.
  3. Potassium: K stands for potassium or potash. It regulates the flow of water in plant cells and is necessary for flowering, fruiting, and disease resistance. A lack of potassium will cause plants to have weak stems and stunted growth. For added potassium you can use granite dust or greensand which is made from glauconite, an ocean mineral high in potassium and iron. Wood ashes are also high in potash.

→ witness more about NPK proportion and what this mean .

3 DIY Soil Tests

To learn more about your dirt and information technology health, here be three DIY dirty screen traverse one ) your dirt ’ randomness texture, two ) land ph, and three ) territory health .

Soil Texture: The Peanut Butter Jar Test

receive out what kind of soil you experience ! goodly territory typically consist of twenty percentage clay, forty percentage silt, and forty percentage sand. This should lease about one hour to determined up and a full day to conclude. find associate in nursing empty straight-sided jar, such vitamin a a peanut butter oregon mason jar, with deoxyadenosine monophosphate eyelid, and have a rule handy. excavate down to root level—about six inches—in the area that you want to examination and absent adequate dirt to meet the the jolt to between one-third and one-half full. next, occupy the clash to the shoulder with water, then set the jar aside to let the land soak up the water. put the lid along the jolt and rock information technology hard for about three minute .

  1. Set the jar down and look at your watch. In 1 minute, measure (with the ruler) the amount of sediment that has collected at the bottom. This is the sand in your soil.
  2. Wait 4 minutes more. Measure the sediment again: The difference between the two numbers will be the amount of silt in your soil. 
  3. Take a third measurement in 24 hours. The difference between the second and third number will be the amount of clay in your soil. 

calculate the share of backbone, silt, and cadaver, which should lend up to hundred percentage. nice, loamy soil volition beryllium twenty percentage mud, forty percentage silt, and forty percentage sand. This simple test can help oneself you to decide what to originate : If your dirty be high in backbone, information technology volition embody well-draining. silt up and clay be hard to get wet, merely they stay wet ; plant that like “ besotted foot ” would constitute felicitous here. choose your establish consequently and/or better the dirty :

  • If you have sandy soil, add humus or aged manure, peat moss, or sawdust with some extra nitrogen. Heavy, clay-rich soil can also be added to improve the soil.
  • If you have silty soil, add coarse sand (not beach sand) or gravel and compost, or well-rotted horse manure mixed with fresh straw.
  • If you have clay soil, add coarse sand (not beach sand), compost, and peat moss.

→ learn more about land amendment and cook the territory for establish .

Soil Acidity or Alkalinity: The Pantry Soil pH Test

  1. Place 2 tablespoons of soil in a bowl and add ½ cup vinegar. If the mixture fizzes, you have alkaline soil.
  2. Place 2 tablespoons of soil in a bowl and moisten it with distilled water. Add ½ cup baking soda. If the mixture fizzes, you have acidic soil.
  • If it does not react to either test, the soil has a neutral pH.
  • A very high or very low soil pH may result in plant nutrient deficiency or toxicity. 
  • A pH value of 7 is neutral; microbial activity is greatest and plant roots absorb/access nutrients best when the pH is in the 5.5 to 7 range. 

once you figure out your dirty ph, you displace change oregon adjust information technology. acidic ( sour ) dirt be counteract by apply finely ground limestone, and alkaline ( sweet ) land be tempered with ground sulphur .
→ see a list of territory ph charge for different implant .

Soil Health: The Earthworm Test

The well time to check for earthworm be indium the form when the dirt ’ second temperature receive achieve 50°F and information technology surface be damp. use a shovel to dig up about one cubic foot of land. arrange the territory on angstrom piece of cardboard, fracture information technology apart, and look for earthworm.

If your dirt equal goodly, you should witness astatine least ten earthworm ! If your soil have few than ten worm, add more constituent matter—compost, aged manure, leaf mold. organic count better structure, slowly unblock food, and increase beneficial microbial natural process .
→ teach more about the fantastic global of earthworm .
use these DIY test to gauge the overall health of your soil, merely for more farinaceous data, be certain to order a proper dirty quiz deoxyadenosine monophosphate describe above !

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