How to test your soil at home
By GarrettW.Martin on January 26, 2014
Soil Testing at Home.
The Time has come to test your soil, or rapidly approaching. For me here in Michigan, stuck in the polar vortex, I have a month or so until I can have thawed soil. For many people the soil is just fine to grab a handful and have the soil tested. There are several ways to do this. The reason why we test our soil is to determine what the medium needs to grow the fruits and vegetables that we will want to grow. After all, you don’t want tiny tomatoes, and wimpy beans. Let us learn how to test our soil.
Baking Soda and Vinegar soil test method
First, grab two mason jars. Quarts will do fine. You then will want to add a scoop of soil into each jar. About a 1/3 of a cup in each.
1.In the first jar, add half a cup of vinegar. If the mixture bubbles, or has a fizzing sound to it, you have an alkaline soil.
2. In the second jar add half a cup of baking soda, and half a cup of distilled water to the soil. Mix well. This time, if your soil bubbles or fizzes you have a soil that is high in acid.
While this is an okay way to get a general idea of your soil, it can be very hit or miss. After all, how do you know how acidic or alkaline your soil is, and how much to change it. You can’t test anything else in your soil with this method.
Fish tank Test strips.
This method will let you know a little more accurate what your soil is made up of. What you need to do is take about 1/2 a cup of soil and put that into a bowl, or a clean jar. Now, add enough distilled water to make a muddy milkshake. Let the mixture set for an hour. Make sure to check the mixture, you may need more water throughout the hour. After the hour is done, take your test strip and dip it into the water. Follow the instructions on the strip for how long you should wait. Some strips say one minute while others may say 15-30 seconds. When your time is up there, give the strip a splash of distilled water and measure your results. This method will give you a bit more information then our first method. If you are unsure of what test strips to use, check out Tetra’s 6-1 strips. They are fairly inexpensive, and will last a long time.
Garden Center Kits
Your local garden center should sell kits to help you measure the properties of your soil. Be aware, there have been complaints that the test kits can be very hit or miss. Before you spend your money on one ask your garden center what feedback they have had from customers. Even read reviews of the products online. The test kits you will find for your soil are fairly simple. Home Depot has what I thought was a comedy video. Nope, they are serious. However the kit does look fairly easy to use. This can be a good start point for a new gardener.
University Soil Testing.
If all else fails, and you just can’t or don’t want to test your soil at home. Take it to a lab where they can test your soil. If you are unsure of who does soil testing in your state do a Google search for : Cooperative Extension County Offices (with the name of your state behind it.) Or you can ask your local gardening center what lab they would suggest. A benefit to the soil lab results, is the people who give you your results can give you tips on how to change the soil to suit your needs.
To get the most out of your garden this year, make sure you test your soil. Different plants need different levels of nutrients, acid/alkaline, and consistency of soil. The more you know about where you grow the better your plants shall be. What methods do you test your soil? Do you have any suggestions to others? Let us know by posting a comment below.