|Primrose, barren strawberry, grape hyacinth, heuchera, and lamium.|
I purchased three soil testing kits from our local Extension office to test the soil in the shade garden, the cottage garden and the vegetable garden. These areas are devoted to different types of plants (flowers and vegetables), or are composed differently (lasagna garden and tilled garden), so require separate samplings. Each kit comes with easy-to-follow instructions and diagrams showing the spacing of the samples. I began in the shade garden.
|The shade garden|
The next step was to spread the soil on newspaper in a warm room to air dry overnight. Only an obsessive gardener would use the dining-room table. (I did place a thick plastic tablecloth under the newspaper.)
The next day, I took a 1 cup representative sample and placed the soil in the mailing kit bag. I filled in the form that was provided and placed it in the mailing envelope and sent the packet to the laboratory at PennState University.
I took samples from the cottage garden and vegetable garden in the same way.
|The cottage garden is waking up.|
|Creeping phlox and red peony shoots next to the first shasta daisy leaves.|
|The kitchen garden -- one bed planted with cool-weather crops.|
The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral, a pH less than 7 is acidic and a pH greater than 7 is basic. My shade garden has a pH of 7.2. Most of the shade plants prefer a more acidic soil, so I need to add sulfur. The report includes recommendations for the amount of sulfur needed per 100 sq ft.
|My favorite 'double' daffodils.|
Every year I apply liberal amounts of organic matter to all my gardens, and an interesting result of the testing shows all my beds have a CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) of 17+. This means, in simple terms, that I don't need to add compost this spring. The report recommends adding 1 inch of organic matter if your soil is less than 15.0 CEC.
|How sweet the violets.|
On another note, we have a mess to clear up due to the instillation of a new septic tank (one of the joys of living in a rural area where we need our own sewage system). We need to replace a lawn, repair a flower bed and reinstall the stone garden which houses my container garden!
|What a mess!!|
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