How To Take a Soil Sample and Improve Your Garden

Published by: Nancy Meissner

We're starting to have some springy weather, and it makes me think about fall garden chores that didn't get done!  By late fall all "efficient" gardeners have cleared out old plants, pulled up tomato stakes, taken a soil sample, and prepared the garden beds by adding amendments.

Of course, a soil test should have been sent in last fall--so I would know just how much of each of those amendments to add!  I said "should have"…and I mean just that--garden chores are NO FUN in the freezing weather!

How to do a Soil Sample

So if you haven't taken a soil sample yet, now is as good a time as any!  Here is a short clip on taking a soil sample along with recommendations for a lab.  It comes from Bob Gregory's excellent DVD training course--Food Grower's Guidelines.

Taken from Bob Gregory's excellent "Food Grower's Guidelines" DVD course

Amendments to add...

If you (not unlike myself) didn't get all your garden chores done last fall ~ early spring is still a good time! Assess your situation and get the amendments that you'll need for this year's garden.  Late last fall we spread organic soft rock phosphate under our fruit trees. We added an organic amendment mixture that contains soft rock phosphate to our garden beds.  These two types of amendments have made an incredible difference in our garden and orchard.  The soft rock phosphate contains not only phosphorus but also calcium and is especially beneficial for root growth and blooming plants.

From what I understand, soft rock phosphate used directly in the garden bed or in the hole that you dig when transplanting a fruit or nut tree is the very best method of application, especially in low acid or high alkaline soils. It's not as critical but still beneficial in slightly acid to neutral soils. From what I read, it is almost impossible to overuse soft rock phosphate; you can grow beautiful plants directly in it without any harmful effects.

It really works!

A couple of years ago I put some extra organic compost with soft rock phosphate on our garden beds, and I can personally testify that it does indeed boost root growth!  I had interspersed some sunflower plants in with my veggies that year. When the harvest had ended I began my fall garden "chores" and was removing the old plants from the beds.  That particular year most of my plants had grown beautifully and were exceptionally tall.  The sunflower plants were at least 10' tall and had many blooms.

When I tried to pull the old dead plants out of the ground in late fall, they wouldn't budge.  I asked my husbands for help!  So he came to my rescue and found to his dismay that he also was unable to pull them out of the ground!  Eventually he attached a chain to the huge plants and pulled them out with his tractor!  You should have seen the roots on those dead plants! Simply amazing!

When you use the right amendments based on a soil sample in your garden you can expect to see the same kind of results. Give it a try and email us a picture of your garden!

1 Comment

  1. Susan J Taylor

    Thank you. I have gotten some rock phospgate for my orchard holes via the White method of planting trees. Now I will use it more lavishly. I am homesteading a 1/acre footprint in 5 acres.
    It is a forest of mainly oaks & pines with good soil for a out 7" naturally. Leaf cover draws earthworms. Is is slow for me because i am a small female of 73 in good health, but not as lively as when 23. Nonetheless it is coming along with God's help. Any training i can get on my budget is helpful.


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