I am so excited to share with you how to use your soil test kit: for a healthy garden. This really is a game changer!
Our garden is getting a new look, as we have moved to the high desert of southern Utah. We have 10,00 square feet of garden and orchard space that hasn’t been touched.
This means that the future garden soil is likely lacking in nutrients that my future seedlings will need to grow into healthy plants.
I don’t want to waste precious time and money trying to amend my garden soil with things it doesn’t need, or not enough of what it really needs.
Soil test kits have been something I haven’t considered before and I just can’t ignore their benefits any longer. So early spring of 2023, I have decided that doing a soil test kit is the best way to improve my brand new garden this growing season.
There is something you need to know though, gardens can take a few years before the soil gets at the right nutrient levels and you shouldn’t change anything too drastically.
So be patient. I am planning on this first year not being the best year, but that’s okay.
There are a variety of different soils out there. Soil health will be different for everyone. There are sandy soils, clay soil, poor draining, or rocky soils.
There are soils that are high in acidity or are more basic. You need to figure out what your soil is, so that you can improve it in the best way possible.
I have sandy soil (makes sense…desert) and so what I do with my soil will probably be different than yours.
What does a soil test kit do?
You send in a sample of your soil to have a soil analysis done so that you can amend your soil without any guess work.
Soil Test Types
There are many different DIY soil tests you can do, but I haven’t seen any clear evidence that they work well. You get what you paid for, seems to be true for soil tests.
Plus they only seem to be able to test Ph. You will want to know the NPK (discussed next) AT LEAST, in addition to the Ph. I chose to do the Redmond soil test (not sponsored). They have a very simple soil test kit. They have a professional lab test and then will send you your results online within 7-8 days. Quick and efficient.
Redmond soil test kit
This is what you get when you do a Redmond soil test kit ($35)
They also give you the suggested fertilizer for organic or non-organic growers that is what your specific soil compilation needs.
What plants need
There are three main nutrients that healthy plants need. (N) nitrogen, (P) phosphorous, and (K) Potassium. These have been known to be called as NPK.
You may see this or a ratio of these nutrients on fertilizers.
Plants will thrive if you have these nutrients at appropriate levels that I will talk about later. Something else to consider is the soil ph. Different plants require different Ph levels.
Soil Ph and what does it mean?
The Ph of your soil is measured on a scale from one to ten. It represents the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. One being very acidic soil and ten being alkaline soil. Neutral is around six or seven. A lot of veggies like the Ph of the soil around 7 where as berries like the soil more acidic in the five or six range. You can use ph test strips to identify the ph of you soil.
More Humid places have soil that tends to be more acidic and arid/dry locations tend to have more alkaline soils. This was true for me. I live in the high desert and my soil text kit showed my soil was at a 7.4, which is a little high.
What if my plants are next to each other and they need different Ph levels? GOOD QUESTION.
You can create micro Ph levels in your garden. This just means that you adjust the soil in specific areas according to what is planted there.
For berry plants, they don’t move around, so it is a little easier to keep that soil at a lower acidic level. I usually add acidic organic matter in early spring to my berry plants.
How to use your soil test kit
The first step will be to register your kit online. Then you will gather 5-7 samples (depending on the size of your garden space).
TIPS FOR GATHERING YOUR SAMPLES
- Work in a Z, gathering samples back and forth
- Dig SIX inches down, do not collect your sample from the surface
- Remove debris like rocks or twigs.
- Thoroughly mix all your samples together in a bucket or tub
Once you have your mixed soil, open the little container (that came with your soil test kit) with the liquid inside. BE CAREFUL NOT TO SPILL THE LIQUID OUT.
Use the scoop provided and get a level scoop of soil and dump your soil sample into the little container.
Close the container, slip it into the pre-paid envelope and seal closed.
REMEMBER: SHIP YOUR SOIL SAMPLE THAT DAY. You shouldn’t wait to send in your sample. Make sure to plan ahead and do your soil test kit on a day that you can also send it in!
Amend your soil for a Healthy Garden
If you want healthy soil for your garden plants then you need to amend it with organic matter or natural fertilizers.
I like the organic route and view my soil as “living soil” but you can use commercial fertilizers if that is your jam. Now that you have your soil analyzed and you have your results you can see where you have room to improve.
In the Redmond soil test results, they gave me what type of NPK ratio fertilizer to get that would best help my soil. It also gave me a link to organic soil amendments that I could use that would be best for my soil.
I really like how doing a soil test takes all the guess work out of soil amendments gives you easier access to having the healthiest plants. I’m sold on the idea and will never go back!
What I learned from my soil test
I learned that I have a high Ph soil as well as extremely low levels of Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. So….. I have got some work to do! There are specific locations where I will be planting berry plants that I will need to focus on lowing the Ph.
I imagine that my baby of a garden will not provide me with the most amazing produce this year, but I am patient. I know that gardening is a process and I sure enjoy the journey!