As the grounds thaw out, you might be thinking that it's time to test your soil's health. To make sure that your soil is as productive as possible this spring, first understand the report that will come back from a soil test. Below we've outlines some common metrics you might get back from a soil test and what they mean:
pH is a measure of acidity. 7 is considered neutral, while lower values reflect more acidic soil. For reference, pure water has a pH of 7 and rain water has a typical pH of 5-6. The chart below shows how pH affects nutrient availability in soil:
Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC)
CEC can indicate the soil texture, with lower numbers indicating sandier soil and higher numbers indicating soil with more clay and organic matter. 8 is usually considered the middle ground for CEC.
This is a proportion of the following nutrients in soil: potassium, magnesium, calcium, hydrogen, and sodium. Good soil structure and water-holding capacity is usually associated with the following proportions:
Other desired nutrient levels will depend on your specific planting needs. For example, most crops have specific nitrogen recommendations and will require about 1/10 the amount of Sulfur in comparison to nitrogen needs. Potassium is critical for many garden fruits and vegetables, and supplementing could be more beneficial to soils with higher CEC values. Phosphorous recommendations will depend on crop yield and current phosphorous levels in the soil.
We hope this brief overview will help you decipher your next soil test, but if you have additional questions we're always available! Please email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be happy to help however we can!