Spring Tip: Start With a Soil Test
According to conventional wisdom, spring is the season to feed your landscape. But before you spread that big bag of fertilizer (slow-release organic, of course!), take the time to find out what your soil actually needs. Feeding too much encourages rapid growth, disease, and nutrient run off, while feeding too little deprives your soil ecosystem and plants of the nutrients they need for a healthy summer.
What can a soil test tell you?
- pH level —> How acidic or alkaline your soil is and whether you need to add lime or sulfur to adjust the pH.
- Nutrient levels —> How much nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and other minerals your soil contains and whether you need to amend.
- Organic matter —> How much organic matter your soil contains and whether you need to add compost.
The best times to test are: on new planting sites, before planting your annual vegetable or flower garden, and before seeding a large section of lawn. And no matter the project, always run a test before investing in fertilizer.
Is it best to go with the pros? DIY kits are cheaper and faster, but professional labs will give you more accurate and detailed reports. If you need help interpreting your professional soil test data, contact the lab before submitting your sample in order to request specific recommendations based on your results.
Professional labs in the New York area:
State University & Agricultural Experiment Station Labs
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Riverhead and Great River, NY
Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory
- Also check out the Cornell Waste Management Institute—Soil Quality and Testing page for more information on interpreting your test results.
Soil Foodweb New York
Port Jefferson Station, NY
Harrington’s Organic Land Care
Photo credit: Barry Bradshaw / EyeEm / Getty Images