Gardening Vivian | 25 Apr 2011 05:00 am

Soil Testing For Traditional Or Organic Growing Methods

If you are looking to make the most out of your gardens or crops, it is important to know about the environmental factors that surround your plants. The most important part of your plants’ environment is the earth in which they are planted. Soil testing is perhaps the most important factor that determines whether or not your plants will thrive or struggle.

What is the best way to determine the quality of your soil? Before you plant next year’s crops, plants or even the sod in your front yard, take several samples of the dirt in which you plan to plant. Send the samples to a soil testing lab to determine its composition.

Analysis determines pH level, which is one critical factor in healthy vegetation. Certain kinds of plants grow better in more basic dirt, and others thrive better in a more acidic material. So, a good soil testing lab will first determine the pH level in your area.

The soil will be analyzed for key nutrients that are essential for your plants’ proper development. For instance, the typical test will determine the current levels of phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and manganese in your samples.

Once the testing is complete, a recommendation will be made about the best type of fertilizer to use for the specific types of plants you intend to sow. A customized analysis of your garden or farm fields ensures that you won’t waste money on over-fertilization, or worse yet: do your plants physical harm by adding too many chemicals.

The best time to take samples for analysis is two to three months before you intend to seed your fields or plant your garden. This ensures that you’ll have enough time to get your results and make changes to alter any imbalances by adding fertilizers, lime or compost. The soil takes time to react with the chemicals, so retesting after applying the necessary treatments is often a good idea to obtain optimal plant development.

Many people wonder why nitrogen levels aren’t usually included in a soil testing lab’s report. This is because of the transitory nature of nitrogen. While it is an absolutely essential chemical when it comes to plant growth and development, it does not stay in one place for very long. Water from either natural rain or irrigation displaces nitrogen easily, which alters results substantially.

Other substances in the makeup are also sensitive to water, so be sure to use samples that are relatively dry. Contaminated soil testing needs to be conducted with dry samples, for example. Contaminants can make growing gardens and crops nearly impossible, and it is important to detect them in order to treat the problem. A variety of industrial and commercial businesses have byproducts that make their way into your planting area and affect the growth of plants. Testing for contaminants is almost as important as testing the nutrient levels.

If you’d prefer to treat your soil with a natural substance instead of chemical fertilizers, you can use compost as an alternative. Its benefits are remarkable. If you opt to use this option or the chemical option, a soil testing lab is the best resource you have to optimize the success of your crops and gardens.

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