Growing our own food is one of the most rewarding ways to get good nutrition and live a healthy lifestyle. Tending the garden gets us outside and moving, and easy access (doesn’t get much easier than our own yards!) make eating healthy a breeze.
Generally, we know when we could use more fruits and veggies to maintain a healthy diet, and we know when and how to modify our environment to live a healthy life (anyone thinking about a little boat time on the lake to unwind? It’s coming!) But what about the edibles we grow?
Just as we need the sun, water, and a good place to plant our roots, so do our veggies. And just as we need good nutrition, so do they. There’s nothing to be done about the sun – it shows up when it pleases. Watering we can do something about, and it’s pretty easy to gauge whether the fruits and veggies need a drink.
But what about their nutrition? There are two ways to go about it – guess, or have a soil test done. The latter makes quick work of the whole business and takes the guesswork out of it. Besides, there is already enough to think about during the busy spring planting season.
How a soil test works
The University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory has an easy-to-use service for a small fee of $17. There are detailed (but easy) instructions on how to collect soil samples and submit them for analysis. In a nutshell, for lawn or garden analysis, gardeners should collect samples from several different areas of the lawn or garden to be analyzed. Or, if specific and different areas are to be tested, then each area will require a separate sample sheet to be filled out and an additional fee to be paid.
The test covers “the big three,” N-P-K, or nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Nitrogen recommendations are determined by what the gardener plans to grow and the texture of the soil. The analysis also covers lime and pH needs and how much organic matter is contained in the soil.
- It’s a good idea to test the soil once a year, in spring or fall.
- It can take up to three weeks to get results back, so plan accordingly.
- Read about how to take a soil sample here: http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/how-sample-lawn-garden
- Print the sample sheet and follow the directions. You can find the sheet here: http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/sites/g/files/pua891/f/media/lawn_and_garden_2016_0.pdf
- Read your analysis when you get it back. Add the appropriate nutrients to your soil for super healthy, well-fed plants!
If you need help reading your report (it is a little technical), check out the info here http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/understanding-your-report/lawn-garden-and-landscape-plants or give the Yard and Garden Desk a call at 952-443-1426.
Edibles Expo 2017
To learn more about soil samples in person, join us for the Edibles Expo this Saturday, March 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hennepin County Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about soil testing, and our wonderful soil reps will be here, too, to talk about the importance of healthy soil to growing healthy plants.
Besides soil, there will be things to learn about and do with edibles all day! Learn about new varieties, how to grow your own sprouts and microgreens, all about herbs for food, teas and tinctures, fermenting your own food, and growing hops and brewing beer, plus more! It’s a day full of fun education and fun projects for the whole family. Join us!