When you are trying to grow a garden, the more information you have at the beginning of the growing season, the better potential your garden will produce well during the year. One piece of information that is easy to investigate is a soil test. A soil test is an inexpensive method to determine how healthy your soil is, and what you can do to improve it to help your plants be healthy also. A gardener will want to test every 1- 5 years. This test will tell you what nutrients are available for your plants to use to grow, and the pH. of the soil to determine how acid or alkaline your soil is to determine how well the nutrients can move through the soil.
To get a soil sample from your garden, first you will need to take samples from 4 to 6 areas of the area you will be using. Using a probe sampling method, take a probe and get it 6-8” into the ground. Pull out the probe and this is the sample. If you do not have a probe, you can use a small shovel or trowel. Using the spade, dig a small hole 6-8” deep. Remove the soil and then slice a small even sample from the side all the way to the bottom of the hole. Repeat this 4-6 times throughout your garden. Place all of the samples into a bucket together. Mix the samples, and take out any large items such as organic material and stones and bring the remaining soil into the Extension office for us to send off. We will need about 2 cups of soil to send off for testing. Another thing is to make sure your ground is not too wet. The sample cannot be tested until it is dry, so make sure it is no more than moist when you bring it to us.
The sample should be brought in earlier in the week to ensure the lab receives it and can start testing before the weekend. Normally, the results are sent back within a week, usually with recommendations on what is needed to improve the soil before you start planting. With this information, you can add the correct amount of fertilizer and organic material to give your plants the optimum ability to grow well and produce the best harvest you can get. As always, if you have any questions about the process, or the results, please either come by the office at 1800 12th street in Great Bend, or give me a call at 620-793-1910.