Soil testing is a cheap investment

By Robert Bourne - Guest columnist

A soil test is one of the most cost effective items you can purchase as a gardener, farmer or rancher.

Soil tests only cost $10, but they can help you make every plant in your landscape healthier. This includes your garden vegetables and lawn, as well as all of your flowers, shrubs and trees. In agricultural applications a soil test can save hundreds of dollars in unneeded application of the wrong nutrient.

Soil testing is the only way to determine the amount of nutrients in your soil and the soil pH (acidity). With the correct pH and nutrient balance, your plants will grow faster, have a better appearance and produce more. Knowing the nutrients present in your soil will allow you to select the best fertilizer for your soil conditions and plants.

What will you learn from a soil test? The analysis of your soil will provide information on the pH and the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. The ideal pH for most plants is 6.5. A soil test allows you to select the right soil amendment or fertilizer needed for growing healthy plants.

How do you take a soil test? Collect a small amount of soil from just under the soil surface to the 6-inch depth. One way to do this is to slice into the soil with a flat blade shovel or sharpshooter, push the shovel to open up a crevice and then collect a thin soil slice with a hand trowel. Place the slice in a clean plastic bucket. For the area you want to test, collect soil from 8-10 locations. Mix all of the collected soil together in the bucket and place approximately 1 pint of mixed soil in a clean, plastic bag or soil analysis bag.

Take a separate series of samples for different growing areas in the yard, one sample for turf grass, another for the garden and so on. For a pasture, hay meadow or crop field, take at least 10 to 12 cores from random locations in all parts of the field and mix together thoroughly to get a good composite sample of the entire area. Avoid unrepresentative areas such as mud holes, terrace tops, alkali spots and places where manure is concentrated. If there is a major change in soil type, color and texture within the field, you may want to split the field into two or more sampling areas.

Then, bring your soil sample to the County OSU Cooperative Extension Office. If you are near the Durant area we are located at the Bryan County Fairgrounds. Your soil will be analyzed at the OSU Soils Laboratory in Stillwater for a cost of $10. In approximately two weeks, we will send you a written summary and recommendations concerning your soil analysis. You will receive a written fertilizer recommendation that will allow you to tailor your fertilizer purchases and applications to meet your plants specific needs for several years.

How often should you take a soil test? At least every three to four years is recommended for gardens, pastures and hay meadows. Testing should be done every year for row crops, small grains and alfalfa. February is a good month to sample, so that you have the results for all your spring plantings or summer landscape and yard care projects before you start planting.

If you have any questions, or would like further information on this or other related management topics, visit us on the west end of the Clay Jones Community Building at 1901 S. 9th Avenue in Durant, or call (580) 924-5312.

The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.

Upcoming Events

February 9, Farmers Market Vegetable meeting, Achille Community.

February 23-25, Bryan County Junior Livestock Show, Bryan County Fairgrounds. Premium Sale will be on February 27.

April 6, 2017 – Eastern Oklahoma Beef Cattle Summit, Southeast Oklahoma Expo Center, McAlester, OK. Pre-registration required by March 30 and cost is $10. A registration form is available at the Extension Office or you can call the Pittsburg Extension Office at 918-423-4120.

By Robert Bourne

Guest columnist

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