Sunday, February 3, 2019 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Soil Tests of Lawn and Garden Beds Are Very Helpful

How Soil Tests are Helpful
Tom Ingram: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, February 3, 2019
Q: I wasn’t happy with how my yard looked last year or how my vegetables grew. How much and what kind of fertilizer should I use this year? DJ
A: This is a question we get quite often. The reality is that the question, while well-intentioned, is like me calling you on the phone and asking you how much gas I should put in my car. Your first response would be, “Well how much gas do you have in your tank now and where are you going?” To answer your question, I could look at the fuel gauge and tell you I have half a tank and I just plan on running some errands. In response you could say, “Well you don’t really need gas right now, but you better fill it up at the first of the week.”
It is the same way with soil. When someone asks how much and what kind of fertilizer they should use, we need to ask some questions. Or in this case, we need to take a soil test, which is similar to looking at the gauge to see how much fuel we have.
To perform a soil test, you will need something to collect your samples with and a bucket: a trowel or a bulb planter work well. We recommend you get between 15 to 20 samples of soil from locations scattered throughout your yard. Each individual sample does not need to be large, but you should dig to a depth of about 6 inches.
Once you have your samples in a bucket, mix them up and remove any sticks or debris. From this mixture of soil, bring a representative sample to the OSU Extension office. We will only need about a sandwich bag-sized amount of soil for your test.
When we receive your soil sample, we will send it to the Soil Science Lab at Oklahoma State University for analysis, and within 2 weeks, you should receive the results. Your results will contain the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium found in your soil, along with the pH level. Included will be a recommendation on the nutrients you need to add and how much, along with recommendations on perhaps the nutrients you need to stop adding. Not only is over-application detrimental to your growing environment, but it is also a waste of money.
The test costs $10, but likely, it will be the best $10 you have ever spent on your lawn or garden. If you want to test a smaller garden or flower bed, this will require a separate test as those environments would be unique from your lawn. The same instructions would apply. So grab a bucket and let’s find out what your soil really needs.
Garden tips
  • Early February through March is the recommended time to plant strawberries. It is important to plant them in full sun and in well-drained soil. There are several types to choose from. June-bearing varieties do best in our area. They have a single crop usually early May to mid-June. Ever-bearing strawberry is another variety which fruits May to June, a few during summer and again in the fall. The quality and size of this type of strawberry plant may not be as good as June-bearing varieties. For full information about plant selection and growing tips, visit the “Hot Topics” page of our website.
  • Mid-February is a good time to begin pruning and fertilizing trees and small fruits.


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