How to measure soil quality and nutrients?

Is your soil good for planting? Is your garden, tree, or lawn not growing? The problem may be poor soil quality. Learn how to test and improve your soil.

Posted by Brooke Loeffler on Feb 5, 2024 3:36:36 PM

Measuring Soil Quality and Nutrients

Soil testing can help guide you to which amendments can help correct soil texture and composition problems, nutrient deficiencies, and more:

  • pH levels
  • Mineral and nutrient analysis
  • Soil type
  • Which amendments/fertilizers/supplements your soil needs
  • Recommended application rates for your land

Signs of Unhealthy Soil

  • Excessively dry: Is your soil is extremely dry and hard to break apart? Soil is supposed to sustain life even when there are no plants currently growing. A vast micro-ecosystem of animals, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi should be living, reproducing, and contributing to your soil's health. Without moisture, that web of life cannot survive.
  • Heavily compacted: Is your soil so compacted that it is extremely difficult to dig? Plant roots and soil based organisms need proper aeration in or order to thrive.
  • Dying or poorly growing plants: Are repeated attempts at growth failing? Time to look at the nutrient levels (macro and micro nutrients), pH balance, and other factors in your soil.

When Should I Test My Soil?

If you are actively growing and harvesting from a plot of soil, you should test every year, preferably during the fall before you put your soil to bed for the winter. If you plan to fallow or rest ground between growing sessions you can test once every 2 years, but don't wait more than 3 years to test your soil.

Fall and Spring are the best times of year to test your soil. By testing in the early spring, you can make sure your soil pH, minerals, and organic content are at ideal levels before spring planting. Testing in the fall will show you how depleted your soil has become after all the summer growth. Comparing these 2 tests will give you an even better picture of how much your soil's health can fluctuate. Fall soil testing will also give you a chance to apply amendments while the ground is still soft, and provide enough time for your supplement to get to work over the winter.

Why Should I Test My Soil?

Saves You Money

Soil testing offers a large return on a very small investment. Have you ever set out for the grocery store without a list and come home with a bunch of things you didn’t really need, and forgot the 1 or 2 things you actually did need? Your soil test is your grocery list that is tailored to your unique growing environment. It can save you from making unnecessary purchases and know how much to apply so you get more bang for your buck. 

Helps You Grow Healthier Plants

Healthy plants come from healthy soil. Whether your plants are for eating, looking at, or playing on…soil testing should be the first step. From there, you can accurately feed your soil environment including microbes, fungi, insects, and more. Feeding your soil increases the chemical and biological availability of the nutrients and minerals your plants need to thrive, and passes those benefits up the food chain for all to enjoy. 

Eliminates Guesswork

Stop guessing and start growing! A short walk down a garden center aisle shows just how many amendments and soil supplements are out there. Some soil qualities can be seen with the naked eye, but for the most part you can’t really see what’s going on down there. Testing allows you to make educated and informed decisions about how to help your soil instead of just throwing things in there to see what works and what doesn’t. 

Prevents Misapplication and Overapplication

Maintaining the health of your soil is a balancing act. Applying the wrong amendments, or even overapplying the right amendments, can throw this balance off and have far reaching and long lasting effects. Misapplication and overapplication can kill off the essential microbe colonies in your soil and even cause eutrophication or “nutrient pollution.” Excess nutrients, especially those found in NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) fertilizers, leach out and pollute waterways. Soil testing results provide you with application rates that help you apply only what is needed and fertilize in a responsible and sustainable way.

How to Test Soil Quality

DIY Home Soil Test Kit

To test your soil from home, you will first need to take samples from your desired growing locations.

  • If you would like an overall analysis, you can mix these samples together for a composite sample.
  • If you would like do know how these locations are doing individually, label and keep samples separated. You will also need to submit each of these samples individually.

Mail in your sample to the specified address and wait for your results. Some labs may take a few weeks to return your results. Fortunately, Redmond and the soil lab experts at MySoil have made the process of testing your soil faster and more conveniently than ever.

Redmond Soil Test Kit

Testing and amending your soil has never been easier. Redmond's Soil Test Kit (powered by the trusted labs at MySoil). Our easy-to-use kit gives you fast, thorough, digital results so you know exactly what your soil needs. Professional lab testing relieves you of the burden of guessing. No matter what you are growing, Redmond's Soil Test Kit will give you recommendations tailored to your unique growing environment.

At Home Soil Test Kit with Professional Soil Analysis

With results digitally available in 6-8 days, you can get started right away with the recommended amendments and get back to what you love about gardening. Redmond's soil test will provide you with a thorough analysis that can help you know what your lawn, trees, ornamental plants, and food gardens need to thrive. Plus, our easy to use dashboard gives you convenient access to your results and helps you purchase the right amendments and track your soil’s health right from your devices. Give us a call at 866-709-3192 to find out how Redmond can help your garden today!

© 2023 Redmond Minerals Inc.

Topics: Soil Testing

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