Soil tests measure soil pH, and texture, as well as the abundance of various available nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium. Some tests can measure contaminants too. You can choose to either send your soil samples out to a lab for testing, or do it yourself with an at-home kit. This video compares various home tests with a lab test and demonstrates the sampling process.
Fall is a great time to test the soil in your garden so that amendments can be made in time for next spring. Here are a few common soil issues and possible remedies:
- Too sandy: add humus, manure, peat moss or sawdust
- Too silty: add coarse sand, compost, or gravel
- Too much clay: add coarse sand, peat moss, or compost
- Acidic soil: add limestone (gradually)
- Alkaline/Basic soil: add sulfur, iron sulfate or aluminum sulfate
These websites provide additional, valuable information about the timing, techniques, and considerations that are important to remember when making amendments to your soil:
It’s also important to keep in mind that different gardens will have different needs depending on geography and climate, and of course, what crops are being grown.