Soil Testing (The Garden) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Does anyone know any "old timer" techniques of testing soil without having a soil test kit? I know some compounds found in the kitchen react when mixed together and was wondering if any of you have found any that when mixed with soil give an approximation of deficiencies or oversaturations. Seems that I either can't find our test kits when I need them or they are incomplete. Thanks .

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, December 10, 2000


This doesn't answer your question, but see if your library can get you Hunger Signs in Crops, put out by The American Society of Agronomy and The National Fertilizer Association.

Tests as you mention would just be guesses. I would recommend taking in a mixed sample to your local Ag. Agent and having a soil test done by the state lab. Pay the extra for them also to include trace minerals. Remember pH is not a good indicator of the need for liming.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, December 11, 2000.

I second Ken's assessment.I did a soil test with a home kit for a project in town that I'm working on.It came up low in K & P. When I got the results back on the extension soil test, it was high in P & K.

It was an old tobacco field, so it made sense that it would be high,from years of fertilizer being spread,as explained by my agent.My test would have resulted in way too much P & K.The PH came out right tho,so I have more confidence in that part.

Our extension soil tests are only abt $5.Check with your extension office to see what yours run.

-- sharon wt (, December 11, 2000.


Again, soil pH tests, by themselves, do not represent the need of soils for calcium. It is merely a test of the balance between alkalinity and acidity, which can be affected by a number of factors. You need to look at the base saturation of calcium. 85% base saturation should be the goal.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, December 11, 2000.

Check with your local extension office. Most of them offer a Master Gardeners class and one of the master gardeners mmight/should come test your garden for free. I do here in Southern Indiana, We have to put in comunity hours to get our MG. title. It's worth a try

-- grant (, December 11, 2000.

This is a question I have been asking myself for years. Why do I need a soil tester? How did my ancestors farm without soil testing?

You can test the PH with vinegar in one cup and baking soda and water in another cup. Pour a little bit of each into their own soil sample and wait a a minute. If your soil is acid, the baking soda will bubble, if too alkaline, the vinegar will bubble. I do this when mixing my own potting soil. I add lime and bone meal to acid and peat moss or forest duff to alkaline and test again until their is no bubbling with either solution.

As far as knowing the trace minerals and difficiencies, I can only guess, going by what the history of the soil is, what is presently growing on it and the soil preference of the native species and how healthy these plants are and how to identify mineral difficiencies in them before I plant my own.

It has taken me many years to learn all this and I have had pitiful gardens while I was learning... I know I would have save tons of time and money had I just had the soil tested...but I obviously have to learn everything the hard way.

-- Laura (, December 11, 2000.

Ken-agree on need for calcium info. What I meant was my home test came out the same PH as the extension test, so I felt more comfortable using it for a PH reading only, but not using it to determine nutrients or micronutrients, like calcium.Our soils don't usually have a calcium deficiency,so it's not something I think of, myself. But others certainly would want to.

-- sharon wt (, December 11, 2000.

Thanks for the info. I'll try the vinegar and baking soda (more as a looksee and something to show DJ). Will plan on taking a sample to the ag office after I mix my bin compost in next spring.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, December 12, 2000.

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