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Soil testing

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Soil testing

Post  iberian on 6/26/2013, 4:12 am

This is my third year doing square foot gardening. I have just three 4 x 12 beds that I built from stone blocks, but we have been very happy with the amount of vegetables produced. The original soil is very close to Mel's Mix.

Last year I didn't add in very much new compost. Part way through the season it became clear that the soil was deficient in calcium, maybe the pH wasn't right, and there were a few other problems so this year I resolved to add in plenty of really good compost and also get the soil tested so I could see in advance if there were any deficiencies.

I wasn't impressed by some testing kits I tried last year, so recently I sent away a soil sample to a lab I heard about through the local university extension service.  But I just received an email saying that they couldn't run the test I ordered because the sample I submitted is not a "true soil" but a "soil-less media" or "container media".

They suggest an alternative test that is quite a bit more expensive and doesn't measure exactly the same things. I notice that the new test does not measure organic matter, which seems strange because the compost must contain a lot of this. It does measure "electrical conductivity" and I have no idea why that would be useful to know.

Anyway, I wondered what experience others here have had with soil testing, especially as it applies to Mel's Mix (or similar mixtures).

Thanks in advance for any comments.


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Re: Soil testing

Post  camprn on 6/26/2013, 6:18 am

Send your sample to UMASS. They will test it. Choose the greenhouse soilless media form. The turnaround time is about a week.

Cost is $15 plus postage.

Here are a few links about electrical conductivity. It is related to the amount, availability of and transference ability of the soil nutrients.





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