This year I have decided to allow three of my raised garden beds to rest over the winter, and not plant a fall garden in them. I didn’t feel my garden performed as well as it has in the past few years and I need to work on creating a healthier soil. If you want healthy plants, you have to have healthy soil. I routinely amend my soil with compost, worm castings, and organic matter, but this doesn’t address the micronutrients or trace minerals such as boron, chloride, copper iron, zinc manganese and others. These trace elements, although in small amounts, play a vital role in a vegetable garden’s overall health and growth.
When Should You Test Your Soil?
- New Garden Beds: If you are planning an inground garden, or creating new raised beds, you should have your soil tested. A sucessful garden depends on having healthy soil.
- Poor Growth or Unhealthy Plants: There are many reasons for poor growth or unhealthy plants and most of the problems can be traced back to your soil. Unless you have your soil tested, you will only be guessing what the problem is and will waste both time and money trying to fix the problem. You’ll become frustrated and may give up growing your own vegetables.
- Every Year: If you have had problems with your garden, and have tested and treated your soil, you may want to continue to get your soil tested every year until your level of nutrients are consistent with a healthy soil. Then, you can amend each garden season and test less often.
How Do You Test Your Soil?:
There are a lot of soil test kits out there and you can purchase one online, at big box stores, or your local agricultural extension services. I don’t recommend the “rapid test” kits, that only determine your pH, nitrogen, phosphurus, and potassium. Your results are determined by color comparison to get an “estimated” result. They also do not test for the trace minerals. Having your soil tested by a lab will give you the precise levels of not only the macro nutrients of potassium and phosphurus, but the micro nutrients that are so important to soil health.
I have found that local agricultural extension services better serve the farmer with large acreage, and the recommendations are harder to apply to the home gardener. Often you aren’t given organic amendment options, and once you get your results, you may need to spend a lot of time researching organic options. These services may or may not be free.
The kit I chose was from Soilkit.com. When you go online to register your kit, you will be given an option to choose your garden size in square feet which is great for raised bed gardens. You are also asked if you want your recommendations for amendments in organic options. The process is quick and simple with a report that you can access online and is easy to understand. Not only do they test macro nutrients, pH, trace minerals, but also the organic matter in your soil.
When Is The Best Time to Test Your Soil?
You will want to allow enough time to make necessary amendments and fertilization recommendations before you plant your garden. This could be early spring after the last frost for a summer garden, or late fall for your spring garden.
How Do You Use The Soil Kit?
- Register your sample online at SoilKit.com
- Collect your garden soil from 4 spots with a stainless-steel trowel. This prevents metal contamination.
- Mail in your sample in the pre labeled, postage paid envelope.
- The lab will test your sample 1-2 business days after they have received your sample, you will receive expert advice based on the needs of your garden.
I want to thank Christina Woerner McInnis the owner of SoilKit for providing me with this test kit. When you purchase from SoilKit, you not only receive an easy to use kit, but are provided with results from an Agronomist approved lab that are easy to understand. As a bonus, you are supporting a woman owned business!
Are you looking for help in growing a thriving garden? As a certified garden consultant and coach, I can help. When you schedule an in person garden consult, I’ll guide you through finding the perfect location for your garden, discuss our local planting seasons and what to plant, as well as planting and maintaining your garden. Includes one soil test.
Coaching. Are you ready to start growing your own fresh vegetables but aren’t interested in spending hours googling and watching you tube videos? Take advantage of a garden coach who has been growing her own vegetables for 32+ years. We will start with a garden consult to determine your garden goals, where to locate your garden, and what can be grown in our area in each season. We will plan your spring garden, planting vegetables such as sugar snap peas, salad greens, and root vegetables. Then as the warm season approaches, we meet to plan warm season vegeables like tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers. You’ll learn how to grow and maintain it as well as plant herbs and flowers that attract pollinators, attract beneficial insects, and deter pests. In the fall we will meet to plan your cool season crops, and put your garden to bed for the winter. Includes one soil test.
Not local? No worries. Help is only a phone call away. Book a phone a gardener session.