Darrell Blackwelder: Testing your soil

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 10, 2022

The most common mistake by home gardeners is not having their soil tested before applying fertilizer or lime. I was traveling last week and a gentleman from another state asked me what type of fertilizer I would recommend. I told him it’s best to have soil tested to determine what type and how much to apply. He commented that he really didn’t have time to take a soil test, he just wanted the best overall type of fertilizer. Those who fail to have their soil tested on a regular basis are basically guessing, especially about fertilizer and lime. Rowan County soils are generally acidic with low pH levels. It’s rather common to find a low soil pH of 5.0 in lawns and gardens. Lime is a soil amendment containing calcium that raises the soil pH level to an acceptable level for many plants. However, some plants such as blueberries and azaleas and other plants 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 N.C. Cooperative Extension on Old Concord Road in Salisbury for both commercial and home gardeners. The testing service is conducted by the North Carolina 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 provides recommendations to correct the problem. The testing service is free April-Thanksgiving. In 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.

Fall Garden Class at Rufty-Holmes Senior Center

There will be a home gardening class at Rufty-Holmes Senior Center, Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 10 a.m. The class will feature information for fall gardens and landscapes. Contact Rufty-Holmes Senior Center at 704-216-7714 for more information.

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