Soil testing is the best way to determine if your field can support whatever you want to plant. There is no right time to do sampling but it's a good idea to do it as early as possible before engaging in farming or transplanting. Doing so will help you determine if soil nutrient adjustment is required.
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What Is Soil Testing?
Soil testing refers to the process of analyzing a sample of soil that's randomly harvested from a point of interest. A testing kit is used to determine the sample’s composition, soil content, and other characteristics such as moisture, pH value, gravity, among others.
How Is Soil Testing Done?
There are various ways to carry out soil testing. Some can be easily done at home, while others require laboratory testing. These methods include:
Using a commercial soil testing kit
Check out The Patient Gardener for the best commercial testing kits available in the market. Here are the steps to follow when using a commercial soil testing kit.
To avoid contamination, use a clean, stainless steel trowel to collect soil samples from different parts of your garden by digging up to 20 cm deep within the same concentration area.
Place the soil in a large container, plastic paper, or a stainless-steel can. These materials don't affect the soil samples; thus, they’ll maintain the soil sample's initial state for testing. Stir the sample vigorously using the same stick and avoid touching the soil to minimize contamination.
In thin layers, spread the soil on a sheet and allow up to 12 hours to dry. Leave the sample in a warm, well-lit area to evaporate the remaining moisture.
Mix one soil cup to five parts water, and stir. Give time for the soil to steep until it settles at the bottom of the container. To achieve a more accurate and comprehensive result, leave the sample water to be as transparent as possible.
Fill each chamber with test containers, including four main plant growth components from the testing kit: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and pH. Follow the instructions on the package.
In matching containers, carefully add a capsule of test powder and shake it into the testing container for each chemical factor. Shake them and then allow them to settle then read the results after everything has dissolved. Check the resulting color against the chart to determine the final result.
Testing pH using vinegar and baking soda
You can also test the soil’s pH using vinegar and baking soda. Here are the steps to follow:
Take a few soil samples using a stainless-steel trowel. Dig up to 20 cm deep within the same concentration area to capture the essence of where the leaves will settle.
Divide the samples into two containers and place half a cup of each. Remember to use plastic, stainless steel, glass, or enamel-coated containers. Add half a cup of vinegar. If it's fizzy, it means it has a pH of 7 or 8. In this case, there is no need for another test since its alkaline.
Then, add half a cup of baking soda. If there’s no reaction, it means the soil is acidic, but if the second cup produces bubbles, then the soil may have a pH value of 5 or 6.
pH test using paper test strips
Here’s how to do a pH test if you have paper test strips:
Immerse a handful of soil into room-temperature water. Stir until the sample has a milkshake consistency.
Dip the test strip into the solution for up to 30 seconds then immediately dip it into distilled water for a few seconds.
Use the pH kit as the test key, which is color-coded, to compare the color with the sample soil's pH.
Laboratory soil testing is typically done by individuals, companies, or government agencies that own large tracts of land. Samples are randomly collected and forwarded to trusted laboratories before they undertake mass production of desired crops.
Why Do You Need To Do Soil Testing?
Check out the top reasons to do soil testing below:
- It maximizes production. Understanding the soil state helps determine which agricultural methods can be used to improve the rate of crop production.
- It minimizes future expenditure by ruling out other factors that may affect production.
- Helps crop producers determine the exact amount of fertilizer needed to ensure proper growth
- It helps develop a crop timeline to keep track of season changes and crop monitoring
- It helps maintain soil fertility and prevent degradation.
Why Is The PH level Of Your Soil Significant?
Maintaining the pH level is by far the most crucial part of soil testing. Here’s why:
- The pH value determines the availability of nutrients that are essential to a plant.
- It helps determine all the essential nutrients required by a plant at a particular point in its growth.
- It will allow you to ensure high levels of nutrients such as phosphorus, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc since alkaline soils hinder these nutrients' availability.
Soil composition considerably affects the growth of all plants. Both home gardeners and large-scale farmers can benefit from conducting soil testing before crop production.