The basis of any healthy vegetable garden is good soil. If the nutrients are not in the soil, they won’t be in your vegetables . For this reason, you need to determine the nutrients and type of soil in your garden before planting your vegetables. The only way to know what exactly is inside those garden granules is through testing. Soil testing provides the key to having the most nutritious vegetables.
Soil Testing Basics
Your basic soil test will give you the pH (how well suited your soil is to grow plants), and the Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) of your soil.
You need more than this. That’s like telling you how much calcium, vitamin C and iron you have in your food. You know you need a lot more than that for a truly healthy diet. So do your plants and vegetables.
Still it’s important to know these numbers.
Your average soil test will show you how much N-P-K is in your soil. The results are usually labeled as very low, low, medium or high.
Why You Need These Minerals
Nitrogen (N) exists in many different forms including nitrites. Good levels of nitrogen in soil boost the green growth of plans. Nitrogen also encourages lush leafy growth, branching and bushiness.
Phosphorus (P) encourages root growth. A healthy root system is the basis for a healthy plant. With a strong root base, plants are less susceptible to wind damage. They are also more drought resistant and can handle an overabundance of water.
Potassium (K) provides the boost for flower production. This nutrient is also responsible for encouraging plants to flower, produce fruits and flourish.
These are the only three elements commercial growers check for and most fertilizers add. Using these you can get vegetables that look good.
But you won’t get the most healthful and nutritious vegetables. Do you think you only need 3 vitamins and minerals? No.
The trace minerals that a good soil test shows, tells you what you need to put in the soil to get optimum nutrition from the vegetables you grow.
But don’t count on the soil test companies to know the optimum amounts needed for your vegetables. They will tell you if the minerals are high or low. You want to have the optimum amount for your nutritious vegetables.
The first step to finding out what you need to add and in what quantity is a good soil sample.
Soil tests are only as accurate as the sample collected. For best results, follow the directions below.
How to Take a Good soil Sample for a Vegetable Garden
1. Survey your garden, vegetable plot or the flower beds. Choose 12 different locations around your garden to collect the samples from.
2. Put on some clean gloves. Cross-contamination is the greatest enemy to many soil tests. Your tools should also be clean and make sure you don’t touch the soil with your own bare hands, as this can contaminate the samples.
3. For each of the twelve samples, dig down eight inches into soil using a shovel. Get a nice scoop, 1- 2 cups of the soil. Place the soil in a clean bucket. Place all the 12 samples into one clean bucket. With your gloves still on , use the tools to mix your soil samples together.
4. Lay out clean thick layer of paper-towels in a dry, dirt-free workplace, like your garage. Spread out about 2 cups of the soil mixture onto your towels. Let your soil air dry over-night.
5. Using clean gloves, put one cup of soil in a clean zip-lock bag‘. Label this bag with your full name, phone number and address. Give the soil a name; vegetable beds, flower garden or any other suitable name.
6. Complete the necessary paper work and send the soil sample to a reliable lab. Make sure the lab checks for all the trace elements.
7. When you get your results come back here and use our mineral calculator to determine what you need to add and how to get your most nutritious soil.