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How Does Your Garden Grow? Part 3: Will this be on the (soil) test?

UGA Extension Agent Laura Ney says that soil testing is important. Spring is a good time, but any time is the right time for a soil test.

For our third and final episode of How Does Your Garden Grow with Laura Ney, we’re going to talk about dirt. Or as serious gardeners call it - soil.

Leonardo DaVinci said that “we know more about the stars overhead than the soil underfoot." We're not entirely sure how Mr. DaVinci's roses or tomatoes turned out, but we do know that his sentiments are still true, half a millenium later.

Listener Dudley Hartel lives outside Comer in Madison County, and he knows just how important healthy, happy soil is. He wrote in to ask how to improve his soil so the 16 blueberry bushes he planted this spring can thrive.

The (basic) science of soil

Think back to high school earth science class and you might remember that pH is a measure of how acidic/basic water or soil is. PH ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. A pH of less than 7 means the soil is acidic. And a pH of more than seven means the soil is basic or alkaline. A pH of 6.5 - about as acidic as a glass of milk, and far less acidic than a can of cola - is just about right for most of our home gardens. But some plants - like Dudley’s blueberry bushes - prefer their soil a bit more acidic. Ideally, home gardeners should get their soil tested in the fall. But there isn’t a wrong time for a soil test, Laura says.

Of course we're going to talk about that famous Georgia red clay.

What makes gardening in Georgia tricky is our red clay soil - hard to miss, especially in north Georgia. And that soil will become rock hard by summer if you don’t figure out how to add nutrients to it. Laura says the red clay soil is all the more reason to get your soil tested.

Most of us don’t think about it much - if ever - but under our gardens and lawns lies a complex ecosystem . And so beyond getting your soil tested Laura says she hopes home gardeners take care of their soil’s health.

This is only a test: How to get your dirt... er... soil tested.

Laura Ney recommends a soil test - particularly before spring planting - to give you time to add any needed nutrients. Fertile soil is one of the most overlooked aspects of successful vegetable gardens, flower beds, landscapes, or lawns. Athens Clarke County residents can follow this link to an on-line brochure. If you live outside the county, contact your county’s UGA Cooperative Extension office. The brochure will give you important information on sampling locations, depth, times, tools and procedures.

To schedule a soil kit pick up, please call 706-613-3640. The return time is 5 to 7 business days, and you will receive a detailed report of the nutrients in your soil, as well as tips on how to fix any potential deficiencies with whatever plants or crops you want to grow. If visiting the ACC office is not a possibility, a soil test kit is also available via this link.

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