Darrell Blackwelder: Boring but important: soil testing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 22, 2019

The most common mistake by home gardeners is not having their soil tested before applying fertilizer or lime. I often hear “you can’t put down too much lime” from those that never test their soil. Those that fail to have their soil tested on a regular basis are basically guessing, especially with lime.

Rowan County soils are generally acidic with low pH levels. Its rather common to find a soil pH of 5.0 in lawns and gardens, and lime is a soil amendment containing calcium that raaises the soil pH level to an acceptable level for many plants.

However some plants, such as blueberries and azaleas, require a lower pH for optimum plant growth.

Guessing without proper knowledge of your soil wastes time, effort and money as well as endangering the environment through unnecessary fertilizer runoff.

Soil testing kits are available from NC Cooperative Extension on Old Concord Road in Salisbury for both commercial and home gardeners. The testing service is conducted by the NC Department of Agriculture in Raleigh.

The greatest benefit of a soil test is that the results determine your current nutritional status of the soil, and provide recommendations to correct the problem.

The testing service is free April through Thanksgiving. Other months there is a $4 fee for the service.

Go to https://www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/uyrst.htm for more detailed information on soil tests.


Darrell Blackwelder deblackw@ncsu.edu is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.