How to test-and-improve-your-soil

What is Soil?

Soil is made up of minerals, organic matter (living and dead), air and water. Soil provides nutrients and serves as a foundation for plants. Improving your soil increases plant health and is critical to growing a lawn or garden you’ll enjoy for a lifetime.

Importance of a Soil Test

Plant growth and vigor are often dependent on soil pH — the measurement of how acidic or alkaline the soil is. Soil pH is measured on a scale of 1 to 14 with a measurement of 7.0 considered neutral. A number below 7 is acidic (sometimes called “sour”); a number above 7 is alkaline (“sweet”). Most plants prefer nearly neutral soil with a pH between 6.2 and 7.2. Some (such as azaleas) prefer a more acidic soil.

A soil test determines whether your soil is acidic, neutral or alkaline. A soil test also indicates which elements are missing from your soil and how much to add to remedy the problem. Soil test kits are available at Lowe’s Garden Centers. These kits will provide an immediate analysis of your soil’s pH and nutrient levels. In addition, you can find testing meters that measure pH as well as moisture and light.

Your local cooperative extension office can test your soil sample for pH and nutrient levels (some states charge a small fee). The soil analysis usually takes a few weeks to process. The analysis includes detailed results and suggested amendments specific to your region.