Reasons to Soil Test this Spring

Are you planning to have your soil tested this spring? After March 30, the peak season fee for soil testing will not be applied. That’s right – you can have your soil tested for free!

Do you need more reasons to bring those samples in for testing? Here’s a list, courtesy of the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:

SOIL TESTING

What is a Soil Test?
soil test is a process by which elements (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, manganese, copper and zinc) are chemically removed from the soil and measured for their “plant available” content within the sample. The quantity of available nutrients in the sample determines the amount of fertilizer that is recommended. A soil test also measures soil pH, humic matter and exchangeable acidity. These analyses indicate whether lime is needed and, if so, how much to apply.
Why Do You Need A Soil Test?
Encourages plant growth by providing the best lime and fertilizer recommendations.
When growers guess about the need for lime or fertilizers, too little or too much is likely to be applied. By using a soil test report, the grower does not need to guess.For Example: When applying too much lime, soil pH may rise above the needed level, which causes nutrients such as iron, manganese, boron, copper and zinc to become less available to plants.

It is also common to see homeowners purchase one bag of lime when they purchase one bag of fertilizer. Based on an average lawn size of 5000 square feet, one bag of fertilizer may be enough. Applying one bag of lime over 5000 square feet, however, will have little effect on soil pH.

Diagnoses whether there is too little or too much of a nutrient. 

Promotes environmental quality.
When gardeners apply only as much fertilizer as is necessary, nutrient runoff into surface or ground water is minimized and natural resources are conserved.

Saves money that might otherwise be spent on unneeded lime and fertilizer.
For example, growers of flue-cured tobacco often routinely apply phosphorus. In areas where soil levels are high in phosphorus, a soil test could save these farmers up to $60 per acre.

Soil test kits are available at the Durham County Cooperative Extension Office, 721 Foster Street. It’s easy, it’s free from April through November, it may save you money on fertilizer, it’s good for the environment AND your plants.

-Ann Barnes

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