Video: How to Test Soil in Your Vegetable Garden

comments (0) March 1st, 2010

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Video Length: 2:07
Produced by: Steve Aitken, Danielle Sherry, Gary Junken, Kate Geruntho Frank, Cari Delahanty

One of the most important steps you can take in starting a vegetable garden is to make sure you have good soil. But you can't tell what condition your soil is in just by looking at it. That's where soil testing comes in.

The most important things a soil test will tell you are your soil's pH, its texture, and its nutrient levels. The key to getting this information is to getting an accurate sample.

Other videos in this series:

Selecting a Site
Removing Sod and Vegetation
Starting Seeds Indoors
Building Raised Beds
Direct Sowing Vegetable Seeds
Planting Out

First, start in one corner of the garden and dig a hole. A shovel produces a cone-shaped hole, removing more soil at the surface of your hole. Since you want your sample to offer an accurate cross-section of your soil, take a slice with a spade to a depth of about six inches. Continue to take slices from 6 to 12 areas around your garden so that each area is represented. Avoid any areas that would obviously skew your results, like areas next to a building.

After you've taken all your slices, crumble up the soil and remove any rocks, bits of root and grass, and moss that you find. Spread it out to dry for about a day. Put it back into your container and mix it back up. Put a small sample in a sealable bag and mail it to your local extension service. What you'll get back will be information on your pH, your soil texture, the level of organic matter in your soil, and any other specific things you request. You'll also get fertilizer recommendations, and you'll learn what your next steps are toward creating healthy soil for your garden.

posted in: soil, how to start a vegetable garden, 112982827, soil testing