Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

Preparing the Garden Site: Soil test

Snow is gone and it's time to think about preparing the soil for planting!
It's just over 4 weeks until the average first frost-free day in my area, the temps are warming up and the snow is gone!  Guess what that means?!?!  I'm getting the itch to dig in my garden!  It is still far to wet to even begin to consider working in it, but I AM doing a lot of thinking... thinking about what I can do now to prepare my soil for planting and an abundant harvest.

I have read and been told for a number of years that one should have a soil test done on their soil so they have a baseline to build from when amending the soil, and yet I have hesitated to do it.  I have to admit that ultimately I was content with status quo and it seemed like it would be too much work to find out what I needed to do and then to get it done.  Well, for probably the last year it seems like soil testing has been brought up to me over and over and over and over.  At what point do I need to take the hint?!?!  This spring I decided to take the hint and find out what I need to do after my parents had a soil test done on a problem spot in their lawn.  I'm a bit embarrassed to say this, but it was REALLY EASY to find the information!!!

Any county extension agent can get you the guidelines, the form and the address to mail the sample to or you can search "(your state) soil lab" online.  After a quick search I found both the North Dakota soil lab & Minnesota soil lab and all of the information required to submit a soil test to each lab.  I also called the NDSU Soil Lab to clarify the directions for the sample and found out that soil samples can be hand delivered to the lab to save mailing costs for those who are local (the U of M lab's website says to mail & not hand deliver the sample).  As far as I can tell, you do not have to be a resident of either state to submit a sample to either soil lab, but I would consider contacting the lab before you invest time/energy into delivering a sample and then find out they won't/can't do it.

So what do you need to do? Find a clean (not washed w/soap; soap residue may contaminate the sample w/phosphorus) container & collect 2-6 samples of your soil that you will mix together into one composite sample.  Each sample should be free of any surface material (leaves, mulch, grass etc) and taken from 0-6 inches deep for a garden sample or 0-3 inches for lawn.  You will want to dry out the sample as much as you can and then collect 2 cups for the lab to analyze.

I'm hoping to get my garden soil sample collected and delivered in the next week or two.  Have you ever had your soil tested (garden or lawn)?  If so, did you find it helpful?  If not, are you thinking about having a soil test done this year?  I'd love to hear your thoughts & comments!

Happy Gardening!

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