Guest Author - Diana Pederson
If you’ve been following this series of articles (check the archives and featured article list), you should now have the laboratory test results for your soil’s nutrients and pH.
What do you do now?
Look at the information given in your test results. It should list information for pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. A comprehensive report will tell you exactly how much of each amendment you need to add to bring your soil to the recommended levels of pH and nutrients. Read through the following sections and use the suggested amendments. Please note that I prefer gardening with no chemicals and tend to rely on natural ingredients that can be purchased at most garden centers or found in your own compost pile.
Low pH: Add agricultural lime, borax, or gypsum in recommended amounts.
Unleached hardwood ashes can be used. High pH. Add organic matter in the form of chopped oak leaves, cottonseed meal, or acid peat moss. Compost will help neutralize soil too.
Quick acting: Add Calcium nitrate, Sodium nitrate, or Potassium nitrate in the recommended amounts. Slow acting: Add Ammonium nitrogen, Ammonium sulfate, or Urea in the suggested amounts.
Quick acting: Add any complete fertilizer for a quick fix to the problem Slow acting: Use rock phosphate that breaks done very slowly.
Quick acting: Will be included in most fertilizers. Just be sure to add fertilizer at the strengths recommended by the laboratory report. Slow acting: Use granite dust, greensand, or potash in suggested amounts.
What Do I Do Next?
First, gather tools needed for gardening. These are best purchased in the fall at the annual clearance sales held by discount stores or seasonal garden centers. Future articles will discuss tools, but everyone needs these basics: a flat-edged shovel and a heart-shaped digging shovel (pointed on the tip); a large bag of flour, garden string, rope, or even a garden hose for marking the edge of new garden plots; weed killer for killing off all plants in a new garden plot; proper amounts of the recommended soil amendments discussed in this article – talk to your local garden center for help in determining how much you need for the size of your garden plot; and a garden rototillers (may be rented).
Once you have prepared your garden bed for planting (discussed in future articles), you will need your plants, trees, vines, or shrubs or seeds from the local store. Small hand tools for weeding, transplanting, and pruning will be needed once you are ready to plant your garden. Again, the fall is the best time to buy these.
The next article will talk about the process of actually preparing your garden plot for planting. See you there!