Soil Testing

by David Schulze

This page talks about soil testing, its importance, and what the various symbols mean in gardening.

You are reading the package of seeds in your hands and it says plants like a pH of 7.0. You ask yourself, "What the heck does this mean?" Or you are looking at a bottle of fertilizer and it says: 2-2-6.  "What does this mean?" you are asking yourself.

In the following paragraphs, we will answer these questions and talk about the other elements that are essential to gardening.

Soil Testing

There are three main elements to gardening:  Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium or (N, P and K for short).  Also it is important to know your pH balance.

I am going to give a brief synopsis of each but there is far more science behind what I have said.  There are many good articles you can read about on the web.

Nitrogen provides the energy that plants need to grow foliage and gives them their green color.

Phosphorus helps the plants to grow strong root system as well as making seeds, fruits and flowers.

Potassium is used to help plants grow strong stems and to keep growing.

These are the 3 main elements to gardening.  There are 13 micro elements which we will not be talking about.

So when you look at fertilizer and it says 12-2-1 it means there is 12% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus and 1% potassium. The rest of the percentages are made up of micro-nutrients.

When transplanting, use a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus

I have learned that to get the best plants, it is best to use a product like Garrett Juice or Medina Hast to Grow for plants and one of the fish fertilizers. The fish fertilizer does not have the high numbers needed for gardening but does have many of the micro-nutrients. Garrett Juice or Media Hasta Gro are organic and have higher percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Man-made products (synthetics like Miracle Grow) provide higher percentages and plants look really good for a bit. But in time, they actually harm the soil by putting in salt which will keep the plants from absorbing moisture like they need to.

I have a problem with vendors who sell organic and synthetic products. I think they should go with one or the other. You might try to contact Medina Agriculture and see if they will ship to you. They are only forty miles from us.

If you are using compost, do a soil test each time you add compost to make sure you have the right mix.  Follow the recommendations offered by the soil test kit.

Too much nitrogen will lead to the plant putting on foliage but no fruit and could eventually burn the plant to death. This is especially true if using fertilizers where the nitrogen is 20 plus.

Drones fertilizing



Now for the pH symbol.

Soil pH or soil reaction is an indication of the acidity or alkalinity of soil and is measured in pH units. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14 with pH 7 as the neutral point.

Most gardening is done at a pH of 6 to 7. Anything below 7 is considered to be acid soil. Anything above 7 is considered to be alkaline. If your plants are growing fine then the pH is probably okay. If they seem to be struggling then you may want to test it. Most any soil test kit will work. 

If there is a problem with your soil, it will probably take several months to fix. If your soil pH is not right, then no amount of fertilizer is going to fix it. The pH problem will have to be fixed first.

There are many good articles online that tell you how to do this.

Or you could just build raised beds and put in some good gardening soil from a nursery.

Read our page on Germination Tips.