Soil testing is something mNurturingCredit: © MaksymFilipchuk - Fotolia.comost people don’t think about when planting their gardens, but once every year or two, it’s not a bad idea.  When you prepare a dinner for your family you try to include all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.  Your plants need the same thing!  Testing the acidity is probably the most important, and at least once you need to have a complete soil analysis as well.

Some plants are very sensitive to the soil acidity.  We measure the acidity in pH units. 
An acidic soil is one with a pH below 7 and an alkaline soil is one with a pH above 7.  The pH of 7 is considered neutral.  Most plants like to grow in the pH range of 6.5 to 7.5, but acid-loving plants are different.  If you place plants in garden soil that does not match their pH level needs, it can cause weakened plants that are more open to plant diseases, insect infestations, slower plant growth, smaller crop yield, and fewer nutrients being passed from the soil to your fruit, herbs or vegetables.

It’s easy to test your soil acidity.  Take some samples of your garden's soil from the surface to about 6 inches deep and mix them up.  You can test it yourself with a kit from your local garden center, or you can contact your local Extension office to see if it offers pH testing.  You can find their number in the Government section or the “Blue Pages” of your phone book under “County Extension Center (Service)”.  One advantage to using the Extension Center is that they will often recommend nutrients to make your soil more fertile.

If you choose to use your local Extension Center then I highly recommend you get a complete soil analysis at least once.  Especially when planting a new garden.  This will give you other important information about your soil such as the level of organics in your soil (under 5% requires composting), and the nutrient makeup of the soil.  Nutrients will be listed separately, possibly in parts per million. Sometimes they are also rated as available in high, medium, or low levels. If an element or two comes in on the low side, you'll want to add a fertilizer that replaces what's lacking.  This also prevents you from adding un-needed nutrients to your garden.  Sometimes too much of a good thing is bad!

Springtime is the perfect time to get your soil tested.  Make it an annual practice and reap the rewards of a garden growing in properly prepared soil.  Healthier, better producing plants will surely follow!