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Soil Test

Checking the SoilThere are three nutrients that plants need to produce their vegetables: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These three nutrients must be in balance with each other, not simply be present. A soil test simply measures the amount of these nutrients present in the soil sample you provide to the laboratory, and lists this information along with the pH of the soil. The pH is the acidic and alkaline levels. If your soil is too acidic, it means that the key nutrients are locked into more complex chemical compounds, and the plants will have difficulty absorbing these nutrients into their root, stem and leaf systems. This is known as the solubility of the soil nutrients, and unless the plants can acquire the nutrients in the soil into their growth structures, they become stilted and bear little fruit (vegetables). Fall is the best time to collect samples to take to the laboratory (see your county agent or university extension) as it takes several months to get the results back. This knowledge will help you when you plan your garden in winter. You'll know what types of fertilizers you must add, or what you don't want to add, come spring. You don't need a soil test every year, but once every 3 to 5 years seems to be acceptable.

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