How to Interpret Your Soil Analysis

Testing your soil is a sure-fire way to get to the bottom of what’s going on with your turf or garden. Whether you’re a new homeowner, or an expert gardener, testing your soil is the first step to knowing how to take care of it.
It’s important to test your soil occasionally, as soil changes over time. Soil tests can conducted by your local extension office, and will give you a plethora of information on what’s happening in your soil. But, it’s important to know how to read those results, and what to look for. Below are some general guidelines on interpreting your soil tests.

Soil pH

Soil pH is the measure of the acidity of your soil. Soil pH affects the availability of nutrients in soil, because improper pH “locks up” nutrients, making them unavailable for plant uptake. This is common in the Western United States, where soil pH is too high.

If your pH is between 6.5 and 7.2, your soil is considered neutral, which is ideal for most types of plants (check our soil pH app to see if your plants require a different pH).

My soil pH is too high

If your soil pH is too high, you will need to add Fast Acting Sulfur. This will lower your soil pH, to bring it back into the neutral zone and unlock nutrients.

My soil pH is too low

If your soil pH is too low, you will need to add Fast Acting Lime. Fast Acting Lime will raise your soil pH, to unlock nutrients by bringing it back to the neutral zone.

Organic Matter

Organic matter helps your soil to retain moisture, and also benefits soil bacteria. An organic matter below 2% could indicate that your soil is lacking in organic matter. You can amend this by working some organic matter such as peat or compost into your soil.

Calcium Content

Calcium is essential for healthy plant growth. It aids in the production of cell walls, and many other biological processes that plants must carry out. A calcium content below 350 ppm (parts per million) indicates that the soil needs calcium. A good way to to add calcium to soil, is by adding Fast Acting Gypsum. Gypsum is an excellent source of calcium, and has many other benefits as well. For ideal soil structure and drainage, the ratio of calcium to magnesium should be between 3:1 and 7:1.

Phosphorus Content

Phosphorus and potassium are also essential nutrients for healthy plant growth. Phosphorus content below 25 ppm and potassium content below 35 ppm are considered low. A deficiency in Phosphorus or Potassium can be corrected by adding fertilizer (If you’re just looking to add phosphorus, a great natural source of this is Bone Meal). When looking for a fertilizer to amend your soil deficiency, you should pay attention to the numbers: Phosphorus is always the middle number, and potassium is always the 3rd number. So a 5-10-2 fertilizer has 10% phosphorus (by weight of the bag), and 2% potassium (in case you’re wondering, the first number is always nitrogen).

These are just a few guidelines to help you interpret and respond to your soil analysis. Often times, the lab where the test was conducted may make recommendations based on your results as well. Either way, doing a soil test is the most important part of knowing your soil and what it needs. For more information on knowing your soil, contact us today!

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