I picked up a soil testing kit at the store a few weeks ago and and started to use it before the weather turned cold. I wanted to get a snapshot for what the existing soil in my yard is like, so that I know how much I have to play around with it make it perfect for my little veggies. What I wasn’t expecting to discover was just how tedious it is to collect tiny samples of soil and administer a handful of tests to each one. Dirt… water… mystery powder… wait patiently… Eureka! This soil doesn’t suck, so on to the next sample… lather, rinse, repeat.
What have I learned, apart from the fact that testing soil is incredibly boring? I’ve learned that my back yard is topsy-turvy when it comes to soil acidity, for one. From everything I’ve read, conifers tend to make the soil beneath them acidic so I expected to find that the dirt under our giant cedar tree was so acidic it’d melt my fingertips off. Sadly, it tested out as almost neutral (6.5-7.0) so all my frantic warnings to my partner to stay clear were for naught. Pity, it’s much more romantic to protect your loved ones from pits of hydrochloric acid than tap water…
Meanwhile, the part of the yard where I hope to put the garden is definitely acidic, somewhere around 5.5-6.0. A standard way to bring acidic soil towards neutral is to add lime, so I picked up a couple bags from the store. I then made the mistake of mentioning this purchase to a few friends, who’ve been asking me ever since about who I intend to dispose of. (Just because I work in a building that was once the city morgue… bunch of wiseguys… <sigh>)
The tests for nutrients in the soil are a little more complicated and time-consuming. I have to gather larger samples of soil and mix them with a larger amount of water and let my “dirt soup” sit for a few hours, until settled. It’s the water that then gets tested. I’ve not managed to accomplish that part yet, thanks to that little blast of winter we had over the weekend. Maybe next weekend I can practice a little more backyard chemistry of the non-illicit kind.