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Test the Health of your Soil

Digging Dirt

Plants can produce their own energy but require a fertile soil to supply needed nutrients. Healthy, well-fed plants are better able to withstand diseases and insects and to compete with weeds.

Why a Soil Test?

A soil test is the best tool available for determining whether and how much lime and fertilizer are needed for the best economic and environmental production of your gardens and healthier, more-beautiful lawns. Testing the soil takes out the guesswork and prevents you from under- or over-liming and fertilizing. Over-fertilization is costly and can be damaging to the environment.

The Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory, part of Virginia’s Cooperative Extension Program, can provide an analysis of your soil. The routine soil test is all one normally needs for a fertility evaluation. Soil samples are analyzed and computer recommendations are generated usually within three working days of receipt.

Where Can I Get a Kit?

All Fairfax County public libraries have a supply of Virginia Tech soil testing kits. The kits have instructions on how to collect the sample and where to mail it for analysis. The fee for a routine analysis is $10.

You can take a soil sample any time of the year; however, it is best not to sample when the soil is extremely wet. The number of samples needed from a particular area depends on the uniformity of the soil and its past treatment.

What Does It Test For?

A routine soil test package includes analyses for soil pH, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper, iron and boron, along with fertilizer and lime recommendations for specified plants. Soluble salts and organic matter tests are also available for an additional fee.

With this information in hand, you are on your way to making your garden and lawn healthier, happier and even more of a pleasure!

--Reprinted from Conservation Currents, a newsletter of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District

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