Why Test your soil ? Over my 40 + years of growing plants I have found that if I know more about the soil my plants are growing in the better I can help them to grow to their full potential. We can tell a lot of things about the soil by observing it. But to to have hard numbers about PH, minerals and organic matter content I have always sent soil samples off to a soil lab. In every state I know of they have state run soil labs that will test your soil very inexpensively. Or for not much more you can use a private lab and usually get more detailed information. If you are gardening in virgin native soil you will most likely need to adjust the PH of the soil. To learn more about Soil PH and how to gather a soil sample Click Here.
Other useful information a soil test will give you is the current availability of minerals in the soil, phosphorus and potassium being the two main ones. The soil test will not tell you about minerals that are in the soil that are not yet available to plant so don’t be discouraged if your minerals are low because over time good microorganisms in the soil will break down more minerals and make them available to the plant. This is where knowing the percentage of organic matter in the soil is important because healthy soil with a balanced PH of around 6.5 and at least 3% to 5 % organic matter content will increase the microorganisms in the soil. This in turn will break down more minerals that are in the soil and make them useful to the plant.