Why and How to Test Your Soil
Soils contain the nutrients, water, and living organisms that help create healthy and sustainable gardens and landscapes. Recommendations based on the test results will improve these qualities.
A basic soil test that gives readings for soil pH, phosphate, potassium, and magnesium levels is sufficient for most home gardeners.
The importance of soil to plant growth can be summed up in the aphorism “it’s better to plant a $2 tree in a $25 hole, than a $25 tree in a $2 hole.”
A soil test should be taken prior to planting, then every 3 years if adjustments are recommended from first test. When no adjustments are needed, test every 5 years to monitor nutrient levels.
Soil tests detect shortages of major plant nutrients which affect growth and development of plants. The test doesn't identify or measure insects, soil borne diseases, pesticide residues, or other contaminants. Competition with trees and other plants is often a factor for plant growth which a soil test doesn't address.