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What's needed for soil testing.

What’s needed for soil testing.

As I mentioned in a previous post getting our soil nutrients right is one of the major goals of our garden this year. We bought a test kit from the county, and a few weeks ago we dug up samples from each bed and the ground to send to the lab.

There are two reasons we are testing our soil this year. The first is to get a good analysis of what nutrients are present. The tests will let us know how much magnesium, calcium, potassium and other important elements are in the ground.

Once we know that, we’ll have a better idea of how to amend the soil to give each vegetable its optimum level of each nutrient.

There was a big color difference between our ground and garden soils.

There was a big color difference between our ground and garden soils.

The second reason is to test for potentially toxic elements like lead or arsenic because our garden is around our garage. It’s been there for almost 60 years so who knows what might have spilled and/or leached into the ground around it.

It was kind of interesting to see the difference in the colors between the garden soil and the ground soil. It’s not a difficult process, and I’d recommended it to other gardeners.

Here’s what we did:

Step 1: Order the test kits. Our county doesn’t do it’s own testing, but they still sent us kits. They were $12 each and will be sent to the Michigan State soil lab.

Crush the dirt to a powder.

Crush the dirt to a powder.

Step 2: Dig a 6-8 inch hole from several different areas in the test area then mix everything together in a bucket. I used an old hanging basket pot.

Step 3: Spread the soil in an even later so it can dry out. We just put it on some old newspaper in our garage for a couple weeks.

Step 4: Once it’s dry, break it up as fine as possible. We just stepped on it and crushed the clumps with our shoes.

A fine mesh strainer separates particles from powder.

A fine mesh strainer separates particles from powder.

Step 5: Sift the dirt with a screen. We have one my grandpa used to use. This gets out leaves, twigs and any other objects. We found a rusty nail and a small piece of broken glass in ours.

Step 6: Use a fine mesh sifter to get even more particles out. It’s important that the dirt be almost a powder. We used a small strainer from our kitchen for this part.

Step 7: Once it’s sifted, measure out the correct amount the lab needs and send it in!

I’m excited to see the results and hope that they don’t find anything bad.

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