Do you know the secrets behind raising a healthy garden? Well, we all think that we do, but we actually don’t, and this makes gardening all the more difficult and, at times, annoying.
One of the many things about gardening we handle carelessly is soil test. A soil test is a fundamental step towards effective gardening, but we skip this step quite often, and jump on to the next step—do not do that.
In this article, we have shortlisted seven ways you can easily conduct soil tests. This way you will be done with the you-think-is-unnecessary test quickly and move on to the next step.
Here are those seven soil tests you can easily perform:
1. Soil structure and tilth
Dig a small hole of about 6-10 inches deep in the soil, when it is neither too dry nor too wet. Segregate an intact portion for about the size of a small soup can and break it with the help of your fingers.
After having done this, assess whether the soil is granular, powdery or cloddy. Your soil is made of distinctly sized crumbs which if are difficult to break indicate that the soil is way too hard.
Next on our list is compaction!
In order to conduct a soil test using this method, plunge vertically a wire flag into the soil at various locations. Now mark the depth where the wire bends. The sooner the bending, the more compacted your soil is.
The reason to employ compaction as a soil testing method is that it keeps a check on the growth of roots, and keeps away earthworms and other essential fauna from moving freely. Moreover, the method is too easier and without much efforts for even a lazy gardener.
You might have heard of workability while going through your gardening manual (if you have one!). let me explain to you what exactly it means.
If digging or tilling the soil generates plate-like or cloddy clumps, there is low workability. It is as simple as that.
Farmers have been employing the workability tests for quite some time now as a way to monitor how much fuel in the tractor is being used up. If that is too advanced for you, you can measure the effort by simply preparing the beds. The harder it is, the more difficult it will be for you and your fellow gardeners.
4. Soil organisms
Soil organisms can actually help you understand the soil better. How? Well, read below.
Gauge the life of animals in your soil simply by digging down for about 6 inches and peering into the hole for about 4 minutes. Observe intently the organisms circulating in the soil, such as ground beetles, spiders and centipedes.
Now start counting the number of organisms you see—if you see less than 10, well, you know your soil is not as healthy as you thought it was since there are a few vital organism loitering in the soil.
5. Plant residue
In case you have a cover crop grown in your garden, dig down about 6 inches one month after converting it into the soil. Now, look for plant matter.
Gauging plant matter is important. If you notice identifiable parts of plants, plant fibers and thick humus, you should know your soil is sufficiently healthy and fit for gardening.
Plant residue method works because plants decompose only in presence of soil organisms. Fast decomposition process means that the quality of the soil is good. If your soil is not healthy, decomposition process might end in a smelly business.
6. Root development
Use a hand trowel or a shovel to dig around a plant, and once you are there at the root, pull out an annual plant and determine the extent of root development. Look for strands with whitish healthy appearance.
If the roots are brown and mushy, it is indicative of grave drainage problems and poor gardening, of course. Stunted roots show the presence of pests or a disease.
Root development is effective because we check on the most vital source of everything in plant mechanics—roots. If they are healthy, it is a great sign of relief.
7. Water infiltration
Get hold of an empty coffee can and remove its bottom. Push the can into the soil until it is only 3 inches above the soil surface.
Now fill up the can with water, mark the water height, and track the time it takes for the water to get absorbed into the soil.
Repeat this step a number of times until the absorption rate becomes slow. Rate slower than 1 inch per hour shows the presence of a compacted soil.