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You may have noticed in the usage instructions for our Single Ingredient fertilizers we always include the line “may be adjusted based on your soil test or other factors.” We’re not trying to be wishy-washy – we’re just encouraging you to get to know your soil a little better. After all, the best way to get the soil you want is to know what kind of soil you’re starting with. And for that, there’s nothing better than a soil test. It will test the pH level to help you understand whether your soil is acidic, alkaline, or neutral. It will also tell you which nutrients or essential elements might be lacking in your soil. From there, you can amend or fertilize your soil appropriately to work toward the pH level and nutrient balance your plants need. Testing in the fall or early spring allows you to add fertilizers or soil conditioners to the soil before spring planting.
For a very basic read on your soil, home testing kits are available from hardware stores, garden centers or online retailers in a variety of price ranges. However, most home testing tests only test for pH levels along with Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium levels in the soil, and have varying degrees of accuracy.
For more complete and accurate testing, contact your local extension service for a professional soil test kit. These test samples are mailed to a professional laboratory, usually at a state university. The samples are analyzed not just for pH and N-P-K, but also for a range of micronutrients that are also considered essential elements for plant growth. Finally, professional testing gives you a better idea of your soil composition, or the percentage of organic matter present. Many lab reports also recommend specific steps you can take to improve the nutrient or organic matter content of your soil – recommendations that you can use to build a custom fertilizer blend to perfectly match your garden’s needs.