There is little gardening we can do at this time of year, but there is one gardening chore that is very important and now is the perfect time to do it. It is to take a soil sample of your vegetable or flower gardens, landscape, nut or fruit trees or your lawn area. A soil sample analysis is a very important garden activity that will help you determine how much lime or fertilizer you will need to purchase for your plants.
This important preliminary and economical test (only $7.50 from the University of Delaware Soil Testing Lab and it can be purchased at your nearest Extension Office) also saves you money. It determines the acidity in the soil and gives you an indication of the exact amount of fertilizer to use. Additionally, it gives a liming and fertilization schedule that should be used in order to obtain optimum lawn, garden and ornamental plant growth.
Accuracy of the soil sample is a direct result of the sample quality. Therefore, make sure your sample represents the area from which it is taken. For gardens, take soil from at least eight spots (more for larger garden plots) at a depth of six to eight inches and about 2 inches thick. Ornamental samples should be taken from a depth of six to eight inches, too. Lawn samples should be taken from a depth of four to five inches.
Put these soil slices in a clean bucket and mix together thoroughly. Keep in mind, when mixing, use only clean tools. Even a small amount of fertilizer or lime residue in your bucket or on your digging tools will alter your soil sample results.
When filling out the information sheet that accompanies your sample, read the instructions carefully. If you have more than one sample, be sure not to mix them up and only use the plastic sample bags provided in the soil sample kit.
You can drop your sample off at the Extension Office or mail it directly to the soil lab at the University. The results with recommendations will be mailed directly to you.
Once sufficient fertility levels are established, lawn and ornamental areas should be sampled every two to three years. Vegetable gardens should be sampled every one to two years.
So, while it is too cold to do most gardening chores, it’s the perfect time to take a soil sample.
MASTER GARDENER TIP:
DON’T FORGET TO CALL YOUR LOCAL Extension Office (Kent County 302-730-4000 and Sussex 302-856-7303) and request a brochure on the exciting workshops Master Gardener’s are offering this spring.