Soil test results are back from the state laboratory, giving our family some guidelines to help with the lawn and garden. After a few years of guessing about the soil composition, it’s helpful to have empirical answers.
The good news is that both the backyard lawn and the vegetable garden area have pH levels between 6.5 and 7, just slightly acidic and fairly close to neutral. This is within the range between 6 and 7.5 that most plants need to thrive. According to the results, we do not need to add limestone.
When we had the garden soil checked for amount of organic matter, it came back at 4.7%. The experts at Rodale say in their Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening that 5 to 6 percent organic matter is a good goal. This reassured us that the years of composting might be paying off. With plans to add aged compost as well as some rabbit manure this year, getting into that ideal range seems attainable.
The test results cautioned about the levels of potassium (high) and phosphorus (very high) in the garden soil. The lab’s recommendation is that the garden does not need any more of P or K, but that we need to use 5 pounds of 34-0-0 or 27-0-0 nitrogen source per 1,000 square feet before planting, as well as sidedressing with a nitrogen source later on. We will be using natural sources for this, such as the manure amendment, even if P and K won’t be 0. Plus, we’re purchasing some loamy soil and maybe mushroom compost to fill the new raised beds. Hopefully we can improve both the soil’s nutrient content and tilth with the rich amendments. The concern here seems to be not overdoing the P and K.
One result that’s puzzling is that when the lab examined the garden sample for minerals, copper came it at 0, yet the report called that level “sufficient.” Building Soils for Better Crops notes that tomatoes, lettuce and spinach all like copper, so we’ll look into that a little more.
The lab gave a more detailed list of recommendations for the lawn, based on high to low maintenance levels. I won’t get into that now, because I’m mainly focused on the garden. My husband recently used a dried, natural fertilizer that already seems to be helping the grass improve.