By Helen Pemberton
Palo Pinto County Master Gardener
Ten dollars invested in a soil test may be just the solution if your garden performed below expectations last year.
Preparing and fertilizing your garden is the key to success, but how do you know if your soil has just the right amounts of nitrogen and other minerals?
The way to overcome the mystery, and avoid confusion is to have your garden soil tested before it is time to fertilize.
The soil test report will tell you the level of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium available to your garden plants. It will also indicate the pH (acidity or alkalinity) of your soil.
For the most part, this information will help you pick the right fertilizer for your garden.
Samuel Cotner of Texas A&M University suggests the following for taking a soil sample:
• Make a hole about a foot deep in the garden with a spade or sharpshooter.
• Throw out the first spade-full of soil.
• Then, from the back of the hole, cut a slice of the soil 1/2- to 1-inch thick. Be sure the slice is at least 6-7 inches in depth, with fairly even width and thickness. Then place the soil slice in a bucket or tub.
• Repeat this procedure 4 to 6 times in different spots in the garden, depending primarily on the size of the garden.
• Thoroughly mix the composite of the soil before sending.
• Mail the mixed sample to the Soils Testing Laboratory at Texas A&M University, accompanied by a check for $10.
Residents can obtain soil test kits with instructions, for no charge, at the Palo Pinto County Agrilife Extension office. The building is located at 221 S. 5th Ave., in Palo Pinto. For more information, call the county extension agent at (940) 659-1228.