Test Garden Soil

first_imgYour county Extension agent has soil test bags and information on how to take a representativesoil sample. The Extension agent will submit your soil to the UGA Soil, Plant and WaterAnalysis Lab and help you interpret the test results. “The main purpose of applying lime is to correct the pH,” Granberry said. “But it also suppliesneeded calcium and magnesium, if you use dolomitic lime. Garden vegetables need both of thesenutrients.” Maintaining a proper pH is so important, Granberry said, because many nutrients get tied up andunavailable when the pH is too low. Without nutrients, plants can’t grow properly. “You may have neglected a very important task,” Granberry said. “You have to soil test todetermine soil pH and fertilizer needs.” Your favorite garden spot just isn’t producing as it used to, in spite of more fertilizer, carefulwatering and better varieties. Is your memory fading, or were those tomatoes really redder ingardens past? Old-timers sometimes say soil sours and needs a “sweetening” with lime. “Actual symptoms can vary considerably, depending on which nutrient or nutrients are deficientor toxic,” Granberry said. “Vegetable yields are reduced progressively as the soil becomes moreacid. Little or no yields are obtained with a pH around 4.5 to 5.0.” Most vegetables grow best at a pH of 6.0 to 6.5, which is only slightly acid. If it dips below 6.0,the gardener should be adding lime in the fall so it can be worked in several months before springplanting. It’s your soil’s nutrient balance, said Darbie Granberry, a horticulturist with the University ofGeorgia Extension Service. It’s not your memory. “Adding extra fertilizer in a low-pH situation doesn’t compensate for the low pH because manyof the added elements quickly become tied up, too,” he said. Although soil testing is the only accurate way to learn the pH level, you can let your vegetablestell you when there’s a problem. Plants remain small or stunted and usually show poor leaf color.Leaves’ edges may also turn brown. The only accurate way to know your garden’s pH level is by soil testing. That’s not far from truth, Granberry said. As heavy rates of nitrogen fertilizer are applied overtime, the soil becomes more acid. Take advantage of the fall season and your county agent’s services, Granberry said.last_img

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