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Connecticut Garden Journal: The dirt on soil tests and why they’re worth doing

Fall soil samples yield the most accurate results and it offers plenty of time for added nutrients to breakdown over winter.
İsmail Eren Yalçın
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Fall soil samples yield the most accurate results and it offers plenty of time for added nutrients to breakdown over winter.

With all the warm, fall weather we've been having, getting out in the garden is a pleasure. One of the fall tasks we can do is a soil test.

A soil test is an inexpensive way to get a snapshot of soil nutrients in your garden, the pH and organic matter content. While you can purchase simple home test kits, I like to use the pros to sample my soil. The University of Connecticut Soil Lab in Storrs will test home garden soils for $15/per sample. Their analysis will test levels of phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other nutrients as well as pH. Based on the results they will give you recommendations for ways to remedy anything that's out of whack.

While doing a soil test can happen anytime the ground isn't frozen, fall is best because you'll get a more accurate reading and you'll have plenty of time to add sulfur, limestone or nutrients. These will slowly breakdown over winter and be ready for your plants next spring.

Download the forms and instructions online. Take a different soil sample for different types of landscape areas. For example, take separate samples for a blueberry patch, vegetable garden, lawn area or tree section. In the vegetable or flower garden wait one month after spreading compost or manure to take a sample so not to skew the results. Follow instructions as to how deep to dig for each sample and randomly take 10 samples in the same garden. Mix the samples together and take 1 cup to send it to the lab. You can mail or drop off the samples.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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