Soil testing from the new growing area has been on my list easily since early fall. Yep. I said it. It’s important information that we need before spring. It’s been written down on so many to do lists… It's embarrassing to admit just how many. Results of soil tests give us valuable information as to what the soil is lacking.
The healthier the soil, the more vibrant the soil food web and this is what ultimately feeds the plants in healthy soil.
I don’t have to tell you that the ground is frozen and that it would have been way easier to do the soil collection months ago, BUT what fun would that have been. ;/ So with drill in hand, a clean bucket and trowel, we (Mille and I) headed out to collect some soil samples.
We created 3 test sites around the field. It’s important to get a good sampling from different parts of the field. After drilling through the top frozen layer we were able to scoop up trowels of soil from each site. We let the soil defrost and then mixed them altogether in the bucket. It’s at the lab now being analyzed and we expect to receive a report in the next few weeks or so.
Here’s why soil tests are important….
The soil test report will give us a breakdown of the soil health and from that report we can build better soil through organic amendments.
A soil test gives important information about the chemical and physical properties of the soil. The healthier the soil, the more vibrant the soil food web. The soil food web is what feeds the plants. Here’s how it works. (First of all, we as humans still have so much to learn about soil and the soil food web). What we do know is there is enormous and diverse life in soil. In a teaspoon of soil, there’s easily over a million microbes.
Plants obtain the nutrients they need from the soil through their roots. Most of the nutrients in the soil are not in a form that plants can directly use. This is where the microbes come in..they decompose organic matter, releasing nutrients that can be taken up by plant roots.
Here’s the important indicators in a soil test. Very similar to blood work. The results can give us clues into how we can create optimal soil so the soil food web will flourish.
- pH: This measures the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. The pH level can affect the availability of nutrients for plants and the growth of microorganisms in the soil.
- Nutrients: Soil tests will measure the levels of essential nutrients like Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus. Nitrogen is important for leaf growth, phosphorus for root development and fruiting/flowering, potassium for overall plant health and disease resistance. We also test for Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium and Boron too. But NPK are the three really important nutrient indicators.
- Organic matter: This indicator measures the amount of organic matter in the soil. Organic matter improves soil structure, water-holding capacity, and nutrient availability.
- Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC): This measures the ability of the soil to hold onto and exchange nutrients. Soils with high CEC can hold more nutrients and make them more available to plants.
Next week, we’ll look at ideal nutrient levels in soil and what organic amendments can be added to increase or decrease desired levels of nutrients in the soil.