Monday, December 12, 2011

Get Tested!

  Oh for the love of soil! Soil can be complex, as I have found. Back in our home state of Minnesota the soil is awesome.  Black, rich earth everywhere you step.  I never remember my mother adding anything to the soil before planting her flowers.  Just seed, weed and feed. Now all the American History lessons from grade school make sense as to why people were moving West.
  Living in Georgia has me longing for the black dirt back home!  There is not much you can grow in red clay and sand.  Not to mention acid level in the soil due to our lovely Georgia pines.  Fulfilling my dream of growing our own food was going to mean some dirty work for me.
  On the suggestion of all the gardening books I read I had our soil tested. I found a link on how to soil test in GA:  In the link is suggests mailing in your soil sample for $15 dollars.  I am a cheap skate so I took my sample down to the Richmond County Extension Office for $8 dollars (602 Green St, Augusta GA if someone is trying to find it).  Within two weeks they emailed the results to me.  All the nutrients (nitrogen-N, phosphorus-P, and potassium-K) came back good, but soil quality obviously had too much clay for good drainage.  So what's a girl to do?  Take a trip to Lowes!  They sell composted manure and top soil by the square foot for about $1.40 a bag.  We started a compost pile for next year which will eliminate the cost of buying soil, but in a pinch it's a fairly cheap solution to ensure better growing results.
  For example, during our first year in GA I attempted to grow tomatoes in just composted manure.  Not a great idea.  The plants soon became lush and green and were climbing all over.  However, they only produced a handful of tomatoes.  After reading up on soil I realized I had given the plants too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorus and all of my hard work was out the window. I should have used top soil and added compost to balance the ratio.  Once again, I can finally apply schoolhouse learning to real life - ratios and elements from the periodic table!  Things which I thought I would never need, took 15 years past graduation in order for the knowledge to become applicable.
  So, read up on your area.  Find your County Extension Office, they will have a plethora of knowledge for free.  I will post a list of books I have an on going love affair with which have been helpful.

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