Evaluating the Best Garden Soil Tests for 1985

MOTHER EARTH NEWS evaluating the best garden soil tests for 1985. Soil tests are investigated here, including information on sizing up your soil, nutrient deficiencies, weeds and a soil test results chart.

| September/October 1985

Right now is the best time to test your garden soil. But which "earth exam" should you give? MOTHER EARTH NEWS evaluates the best garden soil tests for 1985. (See the soil test chart in the image gallery.)

Point number one: While the best indicator of your garden soil's quality is how well your crops grow in it, a test of major chemical nutrients should provide a useful check on your plot's condition.

Point number two: The best time to test your soil is in the fall. Not only will any organic nutrients you add in response to the test results have time to decompose in the soil, but you'll be a whole lot more likely to get those results promptly. (You may have to wait six weeks or more to get a mail-ordered kit or audit in spring!)

Point number three: The test you should use is . . . uh, is . . . well, what is the best garden soil test? Have you ever wondered? We often have, so to try to satisfy our curiosity, we carefully unearthed a sample of Eco-Village garden soil—following all the recommended guidelines, such as taking the sample from several representative spots and being careful not to touch it with our hands or galvanized tools. Then we ran some of that sample through five different tests so that we—and you—could compare the results.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS evaluated the best garden soil tests for 2000. We used two do-it-yourself kits: the least expensive Sudbury model ($13.04 at our local nursery) and the LaMotte garden kit (model EL; $25.30 plus shipping from LaMotte Chemical, Chestertown, MD). We also sent off for three soil audits: one by our local agricultural extension service (available—at little or no cost—in most areas of the country) . . . a "standard audit" by Woods End Laboratory (Orchard Hill Rd., Temple, ME; $20.00) . . . and the "basic soil audit" by Necessary Trading Company (New Castle, VA; $19.50). Incidentally, if you decide to send a sample to either of the private labs, be sure to write for a questionnaire and sampling instructions before you do so.

And what did we find out for all our efforts?

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