Checking Your Soil Conditions before You Plant Your Vegetable Garden

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Long before you put a seed in the ground you may have already been set up for a less than bountiful harvest, or even worse no harvest at all. That is because the condition of your soil determines whether or not your vegetable plant will grow and produce.

There are ways to test your soil and of course the means to fix your soil if it need be. Let's first talk about how you can test your soil.

There four methods you can use. The first is getting your local municipality or state EPA to test your soil conditions. You simply call them up, ask for a soil test kit, follow their instructions and for a fee they will analyze the soil you send them. Some may even send you recommendations on what steps you need to take in order to fix any problems that you may have. These test, depending on where you are in the country can be pricey and you can wait quite awhile as commercial farmers take precedence over the home vegetable gardener.

The second method is to buy a home soil test and do it yourself. They cost about five to ten dollars and they provide a chart that you match the color of your soil (after you apply the test) to its condition. The result can give you the pH level, the Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium levels and so forth. Most do not include what to do next with those results, but this is a good inexpensive option if you are willing to do research on your results.

A third option is similar to the second option except it does it electronically. You take a soil testing device and stick it in the ground and you will get a pH reading within seconds. You won't get the nutrient information though and the device can cost up to as much as twenty dollars.

The fourth method, and my favorite, is the easiest out of all of them and the least expensive. Using a shovel, dig a one foot square area, four inches deep and turn it over. Using your hand break up the soil and count the number of worms you find. If you count less than ten your soil needs work, if it is more than ten, you have excellent soil. Worms only go where they will thrive. Worms have two purposes, to eat and make more worms. If worms exist in large numbers in an area that means the nutrients exist for them to thrive.

Here is the best solution in all of these cases. Simply bury your food scraps eighteen to twenty inches below the top soil. The underlying ecosystem will breakdown the food scraps and turn it into nutrient rich compost. The worms will come there on their own.

Hopefully you will start testing your soil on a yearly basis and adding nutrients to your soil through food waste and other organic material. Doing so will increase your vegetable plants chances for a great harvest.

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Author: Bruce A. Tucker
Mike is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A guide to vegetable gardening for the rest of us, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and where ever gardening books are sold. He can be reached at his website: where you can sign up for his free newsletter and he will send you a pack of vegetable seeds to get your home vegetable garden started.

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