home & garden: MSU Extension program will help you test your soil April 21 & 28
It's soil testing season!
The Michigan State University Extension Soil Testing Program comes to your neighborhood today, April 21, and next Saturday, April 28, to help with soil testing. Master Gardener Volunteers will be on hand to collect your soil samples between 9 a.m. and noon at the following locations:
- Dexter Mill, 3521 Central Ave., Dexter, 734-426-4621
- Downtown Home and Garden, 210 S. Ashley, Ann Arbor, 734-662-8122
- Farmers' Supply, 122 Jackson, Chelsea, 7234-475-1777
- Saline's Town & Country, 773 W Michigan Ave., Saline, 734-429-2909
Soil testing will determine the nutrient make-up of your soil and help you plan for supplementing it, if necessary. Over-application of fertilizers wastes money, damages plants and pollutes water. Soil testing will let you know what your plants require to thrive.
Soil testing is easy to do. Here are the steps to collecting a soil sample.
1. Section one area to test, such as as lawn, flower garden, vegetable garden or trees and shrubs. (You can get more than one test, but the samples must be collected separately.) 2. Start with a clean plastic pail and a trowel or spade. From the area in which you plan to plant, take 10 samples of about 1/2 cup from random spots of that one type of landscape. 3. Take soil from three inches below the turf for lawn and seven inches deep for flowers and vegetables. Remove roots and other plant material, rocks and gravel. Put all of the soil into the bucket and mix together. 4. Then put 1-2 cups of soil in a ziploc bag and bring it to one of the locations above. 5. Repeat steps if you want to test more than one area of your yard. Label each bag carefully.
Master Gardeners will help package your sample for testing, and you will receive the results by mail or email in time for planting season. The cost is $20 per test.
The Soil & Plant Nutrient Laboratory at MSU will be testing samples. This is a test for pH, essential nutrients for the plants you intent to grow, and organic matter. Note that this is not a test for contamination of soils.
Janice and Jim Leach tend a backyard plot in downtown Ann Arbor, where they try to grow as many vegetables and other plants as possible. For the last four years, they've published gardening tips, photos and stories at their 20 Minute Garden website.