Put Your Soil to the Test
Want to get the "real dirt" on your own soil? One of the best ways to do this is through a soil test.
Soil can be tested any time of year, though fall is one of the best times because labs are less busy then, says Birds & Blooms plant expert Melinda Myers.
"And you'll get the results in plenty of time to improve the soil before the next growing season," she says.
Your county Extension service will help you find a lab to do the testing. They'll also recommend any specific directions about how to collect the best samples.
When you collect your soil, brush away any non-soil debris and use a trowel to take a slice of soil that extends from the surface to 4 to 6 inches deep. Take several samples from the area and mix them in a clean bucket. Allow the soil to dry for several days. Mail 1 cup of soil for testing.
Since you're already collecting soil, you might want to create different sample bags for the varied areas of your yard, and test your lawn, flower beds and vegetable garden separately.
A few weeks later, you'll get a report card on your soil, detailing everything from its texture and pH to recommendations for the type and amount of fertilizer to apply. Now, wasn't that easy?
Visit the Plus section for two simple soil tests you can do at home.