Soil Quality—Key indicators

It is essential for you to have fertile nutrient packed soil in your garden. Rich soil equals healthy plants—quality vegetables and beautiful flowers. In order for your garden to produce, you must take measures to make sure your garden soil can support your plants. Soil can lose its fertility over time and because of geography and seasonal change.

Good soil is dark, moist and very dense. Good soil not only helps plants grow, but also helps stop erosion. Good soil is comprised of soil structure, infiltration, bulk density, water hold capacity and depth. Good soil not only retains water, but effectively transports water to plant root systems. This process also provides an excellent habitat for beneficial microbes. The four biological indictors for good soil are soil respiration, microbial biomass and nitrogen. You soil should have good repository—producing nitrogen, and microbial activity to keep the soil stable.

Soil also has important chemical indicators—pH and electrical conductivity. Fertile soil creates the perfect conditions seeds need. Soil that reaches the optimal thresholds in microbial, biological and electrical conductivity literally provides the “spark” that starts seed growing.

5 Useful Soil Quality Indicators:

1. Easy to measure
2. Can measure change in soil function
3. Has chemical, physical and biological properties
4. Accessible to many users
5. Sensitive to Climate

Soil Testing Basics

These indicators can be assessed by conducting a soil test. After testing your soil, you can evaluate by look for patterns in the data and take corrective action to enrich deficient soil. Testing soil pH is an important tool in your gardening arsenal. Soil pH testing is a fairly simple process. The pH level measures how acidic or alkaline your soil is. High pH levels mean lower micro-nutrients for your plants. Low pH level created too many micro-nutrients for your plants—balanced pH levels are vital. Here are the basic steps needed to test your soil:

Soil Test Steps

1. Follow the specific details about submitting your sample.
2. The following are general guidelines for sample submittal.
3. Sample your soil when it is moist, but not wet.
4. Use a clean pail or bucket.
5. Clear any surface litter or grass from the soil.
6. Dig out a small clump of soil to a depth of 6 inches.
7. Put the soil in your clean bucket or pail.
8. Repeat the process until you have enough soil.
9. Mix the soil thoroughly.
10. Take a sample from the thoroughly mixed soil.
11. Send in your sample for analysis.

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