Friday, January 28, 2011

First Soil Tests

Sunday night I performed my first soil test on the flower beds in the front yard. I got the kit about three weeks back for under $10, read the instructions and collected soil samples about 2 weeks ago. The samples are from the four flower beds I grow flowers for mom in, from the center of each bed about a trowel spade deep. I took about 1/4 cup of soil, labelled each of them and set them in the sun for a day to dry out. Then they sat in the garage until three night ago :)

So for the kit I used has four different tests- pH, Nitrogen level, Phosphorous level and Potassium level. It came with enough materials for 10 of each type of test, color coded test tubes and a results chart. I read the instructions three times- once when I first bought it, again right before taking the soil samples, and again the night I did the tests. They were printed on fairly heavy gloss paper which was nice because the booklet stayed open to the testing page when I set it on the counter and I didn't have to keep flipping pages to reference the steps.

The soil from each sample had to be crushed into little bits which I did with the back of spoon, and as many pebbles and recognizable plant matter removed as possible. Then came a bunch of measuring- measuring soil into a tube for the pH, measuring water to mix with soil in anothe container to use for the other three tests, etc. Each test also used a little pellet of I don't know what in each tube to cause the color changes related to the type of test. Enough for 10 of each test (the test tubes are reusable). And then came shaking, alot of shaking, to mix the soil/water/pellets.

I like the results chart. It's setup perfectly to stand up against something and place all the test tubes in front for easy comparison. The hardest reading for me was the phosphorus, the medium and high levels were a bit tricky to tell apart to me. Could have just been my eyes, I was doing this at 11pm for some reason...


1 - 7.0pH, Low Nitrogen, Medium Phosphate, Medium Potassium
2 - 6.5pH, Low Nitrogen, Low Phosphate, Medium Potassium
3 - 7.0pH, Low Nitrogen, High Phosphate, Low Potassium
4 - 7.0pH, Low Nitrogen, Medium Phosphate, Medium Potassium

Anyway, good news is pH is pretty neutral across the board. Bad news is everything is low on nitrogen and there are a couple other nutrient deficiencies to try to balance out. I'm wondering if the low N everywhere is from the Gro Mulch I've been layering onto everything, if it's still decomposing itself it might be sucking the N out of the soil.

Hmm.. is my fish emulsion 5-1-1 or do I need some blood meal? I need to dig into my gardening books to see which natural fertilizers I should use. I am tempted to open up that leftover half bottle of miraculous crack that's 12-4-8 on the East flower bed...

Afterthought, maybe I should test my compost when it's done to see how balanced it is....

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