Friday, February 3, 2023

AgriLife: Uncover the mysteries underground

By Mike James, Denton County Master Gardener

Is the soil in your garden healthy? There is only one way to tell for sure.  Have it tested by the experts and get recommendations on how you can improve soil fertility.

Why Soil Quality is Important

Good tasting vegetables, good looking flowers, and more depend on healthy soil. The soil is the source of all the nutrients the plants need to grow while providing improved efficient water use.

Where to Get Your Soil Tested

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory offers a soil testing service for a nominal fee. Use this link to obtain the form for an Urban and Homeowner soil test which includes instructions for collecting samples, payment, and mailing: http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/files/urbansoil.pdf.

The forms and sample bags are also available at the Denton County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

What to Test For

Very simply request the Routine Analysis Test (#1). There are options for many micro-nutrients that you don’t need currently. All the other options are beyond your initial need and would only be required if the results from Test #1 indicated a need.

How to Collect a Sample

Collecting good soil samples is critical to getting accurate results from your soil analysis.

  • You need a clean shovel or trowel and a clean plastic container (5-gallon bucket).
  • Dig 6 inches deep in 10 different places in your garden.
  • Thoroughly mix all 10 scoops in the plastic container.
  • Place a pint of the mixed soil in your soil sample bag or a plastic zipper-lock bag and double bag the sample.
  • Follow the same steps for any additional areas you’d like to have tested, e.g., lawn, flower bed. Don’t mix the samples from different areas.
  • Complete the form for each garden area, and ensure you send your filled-out form in the same mailing envelope with each sample.

Understanding Your Soil Report

The lab will mail or email the soil analysis report to you with the results of the tests ordered.

The report lists the following information:

Requested analyses. Results of the analyses. Critical limits (high and low) for each nutrient and pH. It shows you the unit of measure for each parameter, and finally, it will frequently show a graph of the soil sample analyses compared to the critical limit. It will end with the amount of nutrients per 1000 square feet.   Consider asking for assistance with interpreting this last piece of data.

If you need help interpreting the report, drop by your county extension office or contact the Help Desk at DCMGA.

Sources and Resources

Denton County Master Gardener Association.

“Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory.” tamu.edu,  Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, soiltesting.tamu.edu/.

CTG Staff
CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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