200 Wildwood Ave, Woburn MA 01801
Office Hours: Mon - Fri 9 am - 3 pm
Q. What is a soil test?
A. A soil test is a measure of all the important macro and micro-nutrients in your soil that plants typically need to grow. Most commonly soil tests are performed to find out the pH (acidity of the soil), but it will also measure the cation exchange capacity (CEC); the ability of your soil to hold on to and provide essential nutrients to the plants you are growing. Along with the pH and CEC you will also find out the percent organic matter (OM) which directly impacts the CEC, and the Percentage Base Saturation which is a measure of the three most abundant cations (positively charged) nutrients Ca, Mg and K (potassium). All of this information is taken into consideration in determining what amendments, if any, should be applied to the soil.
Q. Why Test?
A. Having your soil tested is the best way to ensure you are applying fertilizers and lime responsibly. A soil test will report at what level each nutrient can be found, and which nutrients need adjustment. Many times homeowners lime year after year because it is what they think they have to do, only to find with a proper soil report that they don't need lime and could actually be doing more harm than good. There is a delicate balance in the soil, and over applying amendments can upset that balance, resulting in stressed plants more reliant on quick fix fertilizers and pesticides.
Soil pH has a direct relation to each nutrient's solubility, that is, whether it is available to the plant in the soil. Looking at the image above, you will see that as the pH becomes more acidic (moving to the left, closer to 4.0) some nutrients become unavailable (locked up in the soil), while others start to show up in excess (become soluble). This leads to deficiencies in some nutrients and toxic exposures of others.
Most plants prefer soils in the 6.5- 7.0 range, slightly acid to near neutral soil pH, although there are some plants that require acidic soil to grow (such as rhododendron and azaleas). Knowing the pH of your soil and what the plants prefer will help identify what adjustments should be made for optimum plant health.
Q. How do I test my Soil?
A. It is best to have your soil tested through a soil lab such as your local cooperative extension or other soil commercial lab. Home pH kits will only give you a reading on pH in one location of your property, and you will miss all the information on nutrient levels. A soil test typically contains 15 or more subsamples from your yard, so an average is determined, and all macro and micronutrients are reported.
You can collect a soil sample yourself by collecting a small amount of soil from 10-15 random spots in your yard and mixing them together in a bucket. Labs typically request 1 cup of soil, but directions should be provided with the sample container. With the increased awareness and concern for the environment many landscape professionals offer soil testing services for their customers. We recommend you have your soil retested every 3 years as it takes several seasons for the full result of one liming application.
If you would like your soil tested call our office today!