Healthy plants grow in healthy soil, one that has plenty of organic matter, microbes and a balance of the right nutrients.
Increasing organic matter and microbial life is often achieved with the addition of compost (or manure, plant materials) to your garden soil. But how can you tell about the nutrients in the soil? Human senses of sight, smell, taste and feel can help, but a soil test from a lab is an easy and cost effective answer. University of Vermont has an excellent Soil Testing Lab, and a garden test starts at $15. Check out their Soil Testing page for more info or download a form here.
The results will come back in a week or so, with lots of good information, including recommendations of what fertilizers would help your specific site. You can request 'organic practices' and even get results tailored to specific vegetable growing requirements!
The pH, or measure of how acid or alkaline your soil is, should optimally be in the 6.5 -6.8 range. Nutrient availability (what is easy for plants to take up) of most all important plant nutrients is best in this pH range. Ground limestone and sulfur are two common additions to raise and lower pH, respectively.
Three plant nutrients are needed in greater amounts, called macro nutrients. They are N (nitrogen), P (phosphorous) and K (potassium), often referred to as NPK. Micro nutrients are still important, but just needed in smaller amounts. The soil test will show what nutrients your soil has now, and what additions will improve the overall balance for best plant growth. A soil test is only as good as the sample you submit. Check out UVM’s tips for taking a soil sample to ensure your results are accurate.
Stay tuned! Future newsletter topics will include:
Frost hardy and tender plants
How to harden off plants
Watering in the garden
Professional tips for watering your seedlings
Growing the best tomatoes
And much more!
The Team at Cate Farm